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Why now? Much of what Whitehurst called the innovation paradigm shift is due to the exploding use of social media and other crowd-sourcing technologies that allow what he called "mass collaboration."
"The technology finally exists to allow mass collaboration," Whitehurst said, citing the Internet and social media. While before inventors and entrepreneurs largely guessed what customers wanted, today customers can participate in the innovation process. And what Whitehurst called "the social structure," or norms that have grown up around open source communities, have fostered an environment for collaborative innovation.
The new environment applies not just to individuals, but to companies as well. Whitehurst pointed to the participation in the OpenStack cloud computing project that lists IBM and Hewlett-Packard among its backers. "You rarely get IBM and HP on the same page for anything," Whitehurst said.
"The sum total of what you can see in the pace of innovation is truly extraordinary," he said.
Some vendors, whom Whitehurst didn't specifically name at first, continue to develop products in a closed, proprietary way. "There are a couple of vendors out there saying: 'Trust us, we're going to do this ourselves,'" he said.
"Cloud has the potential to be the mother of all lock-ins," the CEO said, this time specifically mentioning rival Oracle by name.
"Everything we do is open," he said of Red Hat. "We believe in the model, we're passionate about the model, we're all in. We've created a viable competitor to the traditional proprietary stacks." And he said open source is quickly becoming the "default choice" for cloud computing.