Where in the world is Red Hat?
That's the big question on the minds of attendees, solution providers and industry analysts this week at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo in San Francisco, who are wondering why the top Linux distributor is a virtual no-show at one of the biggest Linux events of the year.
Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat, a Linux industry pioneer and market leader, chose not to have a booth in the exhibit hall or any visible presence at the show Tuesday--no banners, logos or T-shirts.
"It's strange," said Eren Niazi, president and CEO of Open Source Systems, Sunnyvale, Calif., from his booth at the conference.
Steve Womer, a senior IT architect at Nationwide Insurance, Columbus, Ohio, a customer of Red Hat and Novell SUSE, said it was inappropriate for the largest Linux software company to blow off the event.
Red Hat's absence was particularly conspicuous in light of Novell's prominent booth placement near the expo's entrance and its noisy marketing hoopla for its recently released SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and Desktop 10 platform, others at LinuxWorld said.
All of the major Linux players--including Novell, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle and Intel--held customer briefings and software demonstrations throughout the day, except for Red Hat.
"It's bizarre," chimed in one EMC employee on the show floor, who requested anonymity. "They should have a 40-foot by 40-foot booth here. It's strange. I don't know why."
Attendees flocked to the small Fedora booth toward the back of the expo floor to find out why Red Hat didn't show up. Fedora is the open-source Linux project backed by Red Hat.
It was a topic of much debate and discussion throughout the day. Some observers claimed that Red Hat decided to take a low profile because of rival Novell's coming-out party for SUSE Linux 10. Yet others maintained that Red Hat opted to save marketing dollars because the company already announced its game plan at the Red Hat Summit in June.
One Red Hat customer at LinuxWorld said he heard "bits and pieces" about the decision from Red Hat insiders. He claimed Red Hat's no-show was directed at the organizer of the conference, not Novell. He said the fallout stemmed from a dispute between the two parties over a conference conflict during the week of the Red Hat Summit.
Red Hat declined to specify the reasons for its decision but said it meant no disrespect.
"Red Hat values our long-standing and vibrant collaboration with the open-source community," said Timothy Yeaton, senior vice president of enterprise solutions at Red Hat. "As a company, we have found that more direct methods of communication and engagement beyond LinuxWorld--including seminars, the Red Hat Summit and other focused events--help us to maintain and grow our interactions with our customers and the Linux community."
At a Birds-Of-A-Feather meeting held by the Fedora Project later in the afternoon Tuesday, one programmer used the controversy to elicit some laughter during his presentation about Fedora Core 6, which is due to be finished Oct.16.
"How many of you went to the Red Hat booth?" quipped Jack Aboutboul, a Fedora programmer. "That was the most-asked question of the day."