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Red Hat & GNOME | Part I

The goal of this post is to explain the connection between Red Hat and GNOME, something that many people miss-understand.

In short, there isn’t any direct connection between Red Hat & GNOME, other than Red Hat sponsors GNOME with developers & infrastructure and of course they are using it on their enterprise OS. Red Hat shareholders ignore GNOME and GNOME is not referred on Red Hat reports to their shareholders.

On the other hand, Fedora is an official (brand) Red Hat project, but Fedora is also a competitor to Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

Fedora is a very significant project for Red Hat and apart that they (Fedora) provide a collaboration platform with open source community and reduce development cost in advanced of Red Hat, Fedora also provides grounds and virtual laboratories for innovations that Red Hat draw upon for inclusion in their enterprise offerings and technologies.

GNOME is a core component of Fedora.Next Workstation and it is a task of Fedora engineers to maintain it, regularly review it, fine-tune it and keep it flexible -running in many platforms.

GNOME through Fedora is also deployed on RHEL, and this is the indirect connection between Red Hat and GNOME.

What follows isn’t a Red Hat business model analysis, but some useful info for understanding how Red Hat – Fedora – GNOME works.

Red Hat

Red Hat employs an open source software development model that uses the collective input, resources and knowledge of a global community of contributors who collaborate to develop, maintain and enhance software.

This model offers advantages to Red Hat because they are able to offer their software more quickly and with less development cost than is typical of many software vendors who use a proprietary model to develop their products.

The primary business fields they operate are cloud computing and virtualization, two technologies that brings high profitability -together with hardware manufacturing or distributing, which Red Hat isn’t interested at, yet.

Red Hat typically distribute their software offerings under open source licenses that permit access to the software’s human-readable source code. They are considered the largest open source company, with no really a runner up.

Key People

Red Hat’s key people are Hugh Shelton (Chairman) and Jim Whitehurst (CEO). General Shelton (1942) joined Red Hat in 2010 and he is an American war hero that also served in Vietnam War. More recently Shelton was involved in Kosovo War (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Serbia 1999). As a side note, this was the first time that NATO acted without the approval of United Nations and UN Security Council.

Whitehurst (1967) joined Red Hat in 2008 and he previously worked on Delta Air Lines, a company (airlines industry) well known for their deep ties to the military.

Just to make it clear, I’m not implying any connection with Red Hat and US Department of Defense here, rather I’m describing some facts.

Those two guys played a key role on the development of what Red Hat is today.


Red Hat was established in 1993 (as ACC Corp. Inc.) but they only started to significantly grow on the period 2010-11 and after.

Today, Red Hat has more than 6300 employees in over than 80 locations worldwide, including offices in North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

[caption id="attachment_25736" align="aligncenter" width="640"]red-hat-amphi Red Hat Amphitheater in the city of Raleigh
Bands like Maroon 5 & Smashing Pumpkins have played there!
Red Hat paid the city $1.175 million for the name in 2012[/caption]

Their headquarters are located in Raleigh, North Carolina, in an area of about 380,000 square feet (35,303m²). If you are interested to buy the place, the rent is $4.6 million annually, and Red Hat’s contract will expire in 2035.


The main Red Hat products / services are:

  1. Red Hat Enterprise Linux – which is actually the operating system to host their services
  2. Middlewares – like JBoss, for developing and deploying distributed applications.
  3. Virtualization – running multiple operating systems and software in common hardware
  4. Storage – software that enables enterprises to treat physical storage as a scalable, standardized, centrally managed pool of virtual storage
  5. Cloud – Including public, private and hybrid-cloud computing, enabling multiple users access a shared pool of resources
  6. Cloud Storage – This is actually a combination of virtualization and cloud computing for managing centralized and scalable data pools.
  7. Others – Red Hat offers a wider set of services by using software that extends the capabilities of RHEL

RHEL for Red Hat is more or less the medium to deploy and run their actual services. Red Hat invest a lot in RHEL and it isn’t coming as a surprise that Red Hat is the biggest Linux (kernel) contributor responsible for approximately 10% of the changes.

The second bigger Linux contributor is one of the world’s largest and highest valued chip makers, Intel. Intel guys by the way helped a lot in GNOME-Wayland.

Of course RHEL is still deployed as a simple desktop in various organizations and Red Hat puts some extra effort on things like Wacom and Multimonitor support, or Disks and Boxes applications. In any case, “desktop” isn’t the major source of Red Hat’s income, therefore neither their first priority.


Four serious issues for Red Hat, concerning competition are:

  1. Dependency – Red Hat uses and depends on third party software. For example, if Linus Torvalds stops developing Linux, that will decrease the pace of developing of Red Hat services.
  2. Prediction – Technology is evolving amazingly fast, and companies cannot predict and adapt to what is coming next. There is a speech of Jim Whitehurst at Red Hat Summit 2014 (4700 attendees -an event record!) that explains how Red Hat is dealing with this issue.
  3. Compatibility – Lots of enterprise software isn’t available on Linux.
  4. Employees – Red Hat bleeding their key engineers, something that decreases the pace of developing of Red Hat services. That’s happening in every company, including Google.


From 2011 and after, Red Hat runs an aggressive expansion strategy and they try to control or at least to have participation in major open source projects of their concern, by assigning employees as contributors. That doesn’t only benefits Red Hat but open source in general.

It is a worth to mention that Red Hat in 2013 acquired FuseSource, ManageIQ and Polymita Technologies for 135 millions (all 3), but they still had ~$500millions cash on the bank.

In the end of April 2014 they announced the acquisition of Inktank, Provider of Ceph for $175 millions in cash, which was a competitor to their GlusterFS. Red Had had acquired Gluster Inc in 2011 for about ~$140 millions.

I am not going to list all the projects that Red Hat is involved into, with one way or another, but the numbers are impressive.


A fact you might don’t know is that the major income for Red Hat comes through subscriptions (minor income from training and other services e.g consulting, support etc) not directly from Red Hat to customers, but through channel partners, such as, Inc. (“Amazon”), Cisco Systems, Inc., Dell Inc., Fujitsu Limited, Hewlett-Packard Co. (“HP”), International Business Machines Corporation (“IBM”), NEC Corporation, Oracle Corporation (“Oracle”), SAP AG and others.

Noticeably, many Red Hat partners like Oracle, IBM and others are also competitors.

Financial Reports

While numbers don’t always say the truth, this is in short Red Hat’s financial reports of the last 3 years that shows a stable yearly growth that is accompanied with a major increase (always count in percentage!) of employees.

In February 2012 Red Hat had 4500 employees, and a year later in February 2013 Red Hat had 5600 employees.

As for February 2014 they have 6300 employees, without counting independent contractors. The numbers seem small, but you have to take into consideration the numbers of independent contributors on Red Hat projects.

2013 2012 2011
Total Income $1.33 billion $1.13 billion $909 million
Net Income $150 million $147 million $107 million
Deferred Revenue $1.09 billion $947 million $772 million
Operating Cash Flow $465 million $392 million $291 million
Cash & Investments $1.32 billion $1.13 billion $1.2 billion

Red Hat & GNOME

When you look at the picture of GNOME you see a range of different companies pushing their own agendas – Collabora do Telepathy and Empathy, Igalia do WebKitGTK and Epiphany, and Intel do Wayland and X11. Those aren’t part of GNOME, but GNOME is dependent on them and work with them, ie. GNOME contributors do submit patches.

Red Hat does a major chunk of the general maintenance and development work, but it has also pushed particular interests in the past, such as with Boxes or Disks. The trick is to combine these things in a way that is coherent, and in a way that maintains the independence of the GNOME project.

The contributions made by downstreams are almost always welcome, but GNOME retains the ability to say no: through the Release Team, the mix of maintainers and contributors involved, and in the final instance, the Board of Directors.

In most respects, Red Hat’s relationship with GNOME hasn’t changed for a long while. The Desktop Team hasn’t grown particularly, and the company has always been pretty consistent in respecting upstream projects.

What has changed, of course, is that some high profile companies like Canonical and SUSE have stepped back from GNOME, and so this changes the balance a bit and makes people nervous. We all obviously want more companies involved in GNOME, and I think that that is something that Red Hat management would welcome.

For the end, the private mails (and phone calls) between Red Hat and GNOME developers are limited and decisions are made on open with fully transparency.

The only case (AFAIK) that Red Hat has direct involvement in GNOME is by setting some priorities in what parts of GNOME, Red Hat employees should work on. Which is obvious.


The reasons of giving such information for Red Hat are:

  • Understanding the size and the growth of Red Hat
  • Understanding that RHEL doesn’t “primary” target desktop
  • Fedora by definition (point 2) doesn’t really focus on desktop either

Fedora.Next (Workstation) will try to please desktop users and this will hugely benefit GNOME & Linux Desktop in general. Red Hat descent days can lead to Fedora descent days and by the release of Fedora Next, GNOME might (just might) gain again a descent distro, since its drop from Ubuntu.

Of course Red Hat remains a company; their only goal is to increase profits, and when you have single goals, it is almost always “whatever it takes”.

Honestly speaking, Red Hat is one of the companies that is in general “welcome” both from individuals/communities and press. I haven’t seen much of accusations as it happens to others. I mean in business level.

Part 2

I actually wanted to talk about Fedora.Next and GNOME and not for Red Hat, but I spend much time on this, so I’ll continue on another post about it. Meanwhile I reckon to read the Red Hat Annual Reports if you want to understand how this company works. They are kinda big ~100 pages each, and this was the reason I run out of time.

By the way if you want to make some money from Open Source you can buy Red Hat shares, tomorrow. It is on 48.57 but I estimated you could sell them on 52-54 inside the next 1-2 months. That would be 10% fast profit. And if not, the risk is low anyway!

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  • jon_downfromthetrees

    Delta Airlines is in “deep” with the *Department* of Defense?


    I am sure they sell charter flights to the Pentagon, but that hardly amounts to “deep ties.”

    Lack of substantiation here and throughout this piece call its credibility into question. You shouldn’t expect readers to just trust you.

    (And, the less said about the paranoid frame of reference that prompts an assurance that previous military service doesn’t necessarily mean involvement in a Pentagon conspiracy…the better.)

    • alex285

      > You shouldn’t expect readers to just trust you.
      You misunderstood here. The reason I referred Delta ties with US defense department, was exactly to say the opposite; that I don’t imply any relationship with RH and US government.

      When someone reads that RH is managed from a ex-military and an ex-employee (high position) of Delta, what you think is gonna believe?

      > Evidence
      Really? Should I provide evidence about the air-lines industry connections to military? I mean really?! :/