Whitehurst: It depends on what role you're trying to play. We are in the business of taking share in various established product categories. Yes, we're a fast-growing company, but if you look at how we grow ... the way we do that is by offering better value. By keeping the price low, it allows us to take share faster, which allows us to generate more revenue and grow. So it's very different than if we were in an established category and we have 70 percent share. If I lower the price, then I can't grow as fast.
IDGNS: Red Hat relies on open-source databases like MySQL for its product lineup, but the company doesn't have its own traditional relational database offering. Why is that?
Whitehurst: It's something we obviously have looked at a number of times, and I don't think there's something necessarily wrong with the core database business. The problem is that selling only on price isn't enough. To go in and say we have a database almost as good as Oracle at a tenth of the price is still a tough sell. The reason Linux did well isn't that Linux is cheaper than Unix. It's faster. With JBoss, it's not that it's cheaper than [IBM] WebSphere or [Oracle] WebLogic, it also requires a much smaller footprint. Therefore, you can collapse a whole set of computing resources and management around that.
The problem on the database side is Oracle has a really damn good database. It's not that there aren't really good open-source databases out there, but at least in the traditional SQL world, there's no open-source database that has 10 other features that Oracle doesn't have.
Now, on the NoSQL side, I think some of those could be quite interesting. It's something that we look at, I think the guys at 10gen are doing a great job. Some of those could be very, very interesting, but the time's just never been right for us to find the right fit. [Ed: Earlier this month, Red Hat released JBoss Data Grid 6, an in-memory NoSQL data store based on the Infinispan open source project.]
IDGNS: Still, isn't a lack of your own database sort of a big hole for a PaaS vendor like Red Hat?
Whitehurst: We really sell choice, choice, choice. So our virtualization supports Windows and Linux. Our application server runs on Windows as well. Because we offer choice at every layer, we're not trying to say buy this whole monolithic stack from us. The fact that we don't have the database and we partner with a lot of others to provide that, I think that works fine for us.
IDGNS: Red Hat also relies heavily on Java, which is controlled by your competitor, Oracle. What's your view of Oracle's stewardship of Java?
Whitehurst: We are watching [Oracle's handling of Java] closely. I don't think anything's happened thus far that really concerns us, but we want to watch it carefully.
IDGNS: Google was largely exonerated in the lawsuit Oracle filed against it over Java intellectual-property violations in the Android mobile OS, although Oracle plans to appeal. What was your reaction to that?
Whitehurst: I was very pleased. I think that's important. If Java's going to be an open standard that people use, it can't [be] tied up on a whim. So we were pleased to see that's where the courts came out.
Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com.