Today, Red Hat dominates enterprise Linux.Tomorrow, it wants to rule the cloud. Don’t bet against it.
BY STEVEN J. VAUGHAN-NICHOLS
In 1994, if you wanted to make money from Linux, you were selling Linux CDs for $39.95. By 2016, Red Hat became the first $2 billion Linux company. But, in the same year, Red Hat was shifting its long-term
focus from Linux to the cloud. Here’s how Red Hat got from mail-order CDs to the top Linux company and a major cloud player.
RED HAT LINUX BEGINNINGS
Marc Ewing was a happy hacker spinning his own distribution of Linux on CDs from his Raleigh, N.C., home. He called it Red Hat after his grandfather’s red Cornell University lacrosse cap, which he wore as a tech assistant at Carnegie Mellon University.
Red Hat Linux was not the first Linux distribution. That honor goes to 1992’s Manchester Computing Center (MCC) Linux. It was followed in quick succession by Softlanding Linux System (SLS), and then Slackware, the oldest surviving Linux distribution, and Debian Linux. Except for Debian, unless you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Linux fan, you probably haven’t heard of these, and, if you know Debian, you know it’s never been a commercial program. That might’ve been the fate for Red Hat Linux as well -- except Ewing met Bob Young, a young entrepreneur with big, albeit unformed, dreams.