Open source software quality in limelight at Red Hat Summit

At the 2006 Red Hat Sumit, Red Hat put the engineers on stage to talk about the high quality open source software standards it hopes will become pervasive throughout the software industry.

NASHVILLE -- While some just talk about the quality of open source software, Red Hat said it's actually doing something about it.

Durham, N.C.-based commercial Linux vendor Red Hat Inc. announced at the company's annual Red Hat Summit last week that it is launching a project directed squarely at quality assurance.

Red Hat uses its annual event to reach out to its community of hard-core open source users and grab their attention. At last year's summit, Red Hat CEO Matt Szulik donned a preacher's robe and addressed the audience with a real-live choir in tow. But at this year's keynote, Szulik skipped the theatrics. All the chief executive needed to do was invite four Red Hat engineers on stage to give details about the QA project and other company initiatives under way or ready to launch.

One of the eclectic mix of Red Hat projects is a new open source quality assurance project driven by customer requests, said Jay Turner and Tom Kincaid, both staff members of the Red Hat QA team.

"Our customers used to ask how Red Hat was able to ensure that its hundreds of applications could run and who made sure the binary packages ran. And the answer was automation," Turner said. "More recently, however, customers started to ask how they could do all of this on their own."

The requests came as a result of customization of the OS by customers who would inevitably make minor changes and their own builds, Turner said. Eventually, these customers would ask for access to the tools used for QA so that they could conduct testing processes themselves, he said.

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"So today we are submitting a new open source test project to the Fedora board," Kincaid said. "The project will combine testing and tools, and together as a community we will establish open standards around open source testing."

Szulik also used his brief time on stage to mention the acquisition of JBoss Inc., a popular open source middleware vendor.

"The key driver with this acquisition was to build the entire open source stack," Szulik said. "Our desire and pursuit of JBoss was such that the developers could work in an unfettered environment."

For Szulik, the JBoss buy was just another step in the evolution of Linux and open source. Just 10 years ago, there was no KDE or GNOME, no Creative Commons or Internet telephony, or OpenDocument file formats. All of these feats, rooted in open source, would not have been possible without transparency, he said.

"We must continue to work in transparent environments. We must compete not based on lock-in, but on value and increasing rates of innovation, and at the lowest possible cost to all of us," he said.

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