[Gentoo] E-Trade and Gentoo

I’ve come across an interesting via LWNeWeek article on their use of open source. It’s intriguing to see some of the reasoning that goes on in the minds of people like vice president of architecture Lee Thompson.

A couple of Gentoo-relevant excerpts follow my comments. The main gist is that the ability of your system to survive a larger rate of change is what makes it a survivor, that he wants a Gentoo server distro, and that his goal is to balance the agressive change of the first point and the stability of the second point.

OK, so you know the phenomenon—the phenomena is, the amount of change
that you are sustaining on a Gentoo system is orders of magnitude larger
than the amount of change that a typical proprietary operating system
from anybody—Solaris, HP-UX, mainframes, whatever—[would go through].

Whatever operating system, the rate of patches coming out of the vendor
is much lower than what you enjoy on, you know, my Gentoo laptop or your
Gentoo machine.

And then I started looking, kind of watching this, obviously, from a
technology management perspective. … If you can sustain change faster
than somebody else, you’re going to survive, and the person who can’t
sustain the change is not going to evolve, and they’re going to die off.
This is almost more important a realization than the direct cost
savings, which is still phenomenal.

Yeah, I’ve been running Gentoo for the 2002 to 2003 time frame, and I’ve
had several issues. I’ve said to myself, well, you know, the change rate
is worth it. Change destabilizes, but change is good, and that’s kind of
a classic problem. I don’t want to suffer from innovator’s dilemma at
E-Trade. I want to keep pushing this company very, very hard. So I want
to drive change. The downside of that is if you try to change, you can
destabilize the system.

[Gentoo’s Chief Architect] Daniel Robbins always wanted to do a server
variant of Gentoo, which the project, I don’t think, ever started, but
it’s always been something that was kind of on the mind of the Gentoo
community—that there should be the top-of-tree distro, and behind it
something a little more stable, almost exactly mirroring what the Fedora
community project is and the Red Hat AS series of servers.

So, here I am, the guy who’s trying to push change. I work on a Gentoo
box, while our production system is Red Hat AS 3.4, which is very
stable. And so that’s kind of a good way of balancing aggressive change
and stability, in our mind.