"When those three things come together, now we're really talking about an Information Revolution," Whitehurst said. "It will be less defined by making things more cheaply and by figuring out how to make things more efficiently."
IT is no longer about augmenting physical assets to make a product, Whitehurst said. "Now, IT is becoming the product," he said.
The Information Revolution requires companies to find new ways to partner to be successful, Whitehurst said.
The traditional way to create IT, in which an individual or a single organization develops a process or an application, is similar in concept to how physical goods are produced, he said.
However, the software industry is characterized by an explosion of information and the ability to share that information, making it possible to collaborate as a community and showing the importance of the power of participation. "These companies developing software now can work together through open source," he said.
Whitehurst said such software developers are not open-source zealots. "They just say, 'I have a problem, and I don't have to solve it myself,' " he said.
For example, he pointed to big data, noting that there is not a single part of the big data ecosystem that was not solved using open source.
Going forward, companies such as Red Hat have to look at how to add value in a world where half or more of the information will be coming from open source and participation in communities, which will change everyone's roles.
Participation is deep in Red Hat's DNA, Whitehurst said. "We believe the world will be a better place because of participation," he said.
Solution providers who sat in on Whitehurst's presentation praised his use of the Industrial Revolution as an analogy to describe the imminent Information Revolution.
Whitehurst's analogy was a real eye-opener, especially when he talked about comparing cloud computing to standardized parts, said Mark Gonzalez, regional vice president of sales for ePlus Technology, a Herndon, Va.-based solution provider and Red Hat partner.
Red Hat's focus on open source is essentially harvesting everyone's brains to develop the standardized parts, he said. "Red Hat was open before open was cool," he said. "They brought structure where there could have been chaos. They were able to bring out products that no one else could do."
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