Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst. Photo by Flickr/Red Hat.
The Big Interview

The Only Guy Making Money Off Free Software

By
Steve Nellis
 |  July 6, 2016 10:01 AM PDT
Photo: Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst. Photo by Flickr/Red Hat.

There are now scores of venture-backed startups pushing open-source software. Some, like Cloudera, MongoDB and Docker, claim to be worth $1 billion or more. Each has a slightly different spin on the same question: How do you make money off free code?

They’ve got a range of different answers, like selling tools on top of an “open core” of free code. But the proof of profits has yet to come. There’s only one firm that’s proven it can consistently make money off open-source software, and that’s Red Hat, the North Carolina firm best known for selling a business-class version of the free Linux operating system. Linux has become the standard for web servers, so chances are that if you’ve done anything on the internet in the past decade, the data was flowing from a Linux machine.

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