Enterprise Linux vendor Red Hat plans to expand its Brisbane support operation, revealing that some US Red Hat customers time support calls according to when calls are likely to be answered by Australian staff.
First established in 1999 as a sales and marketing office, Red Hat’s Brisbane HQ now employs around 100 staff and largely concentrates on support (including maintenance of the company's 2500 software manuals) and R&D (with a heavy emphasis on localisation, graphics and IPV6).
Paul Gampe, vice president of the engineering services and operations group at Red Hat said the company planned to hire more Brisbane-based staff in 2011 and that the Brisbane operation would lease an additional floor for its CBD headquarters.
Brisbane is one of the five "follow-the-sun" support centres operated by Red Hat, a role it first took on in 2001 to help service Japanese-speaking clients.
However, that multi-lingual factor was no longer its key attraction, Gampe said during a presentation at Linux.conf.au 2011 in Brisbane.
"It's not so much our Asian language skills which have been the greatest asset, it's been the Aussie attitude and how much it's appreciated by the West Coast. There's a large segment [of customers] who wait for support to roll over because they like the friendliness."
Gampe disputed the notion that tech support and R&D work would invariably end up in Asian markets where basic labour costs are cheaper.
"We've grown together as opposed to having to lose jobs to India and China."
He also said Australian economic stability made growing a company within Australia (and Brisbane in particular) easier.
"Wild fluctuation in exchange rates or cost of living can [otherwise] make your budget planning very difficult," he said.
Gampe also revealed why Red Hat chose not to outsource localisation of its software.
In 2003, Red Hat began localising its software into regional languages, but found that software translators lacked a useful knowledge of open source terminology.
"Most of the translation companies worldwide were very familiar with Windows. When we tried to use them for localisation of open source software, it's a different language and they didn't do a very good job of it, so we brought it in-house," he said.
Having that capability, and being able to turn around translations overnight on code supplied from the company's US-based developers, has proved useful in enabling Red Hat to simultaneously ship its software in multiple languages.
"It's a major tactical advantage if you're producing large volumes of software, as there's no patching issues," Gampe said.