Red Hat CEO: We're the cloud leader -- with Linux

Jim Whitehurst says it's not just Red Hat's products, but its philosophy that place it at the forefront of cloud computing

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IDGE: One of the criticisms regarding OpenStack has been that it's not enterprise ready. Now, with your version, is it enterprise ready?

Whitehurst: We're in tech preview, and we're in tech preview for a reason. This is the key. Red Hat, we're not a little software company that throws something out and says it runs. We run the New York Stock Exchange, we run advanced weapons systems. When we say something is enterprise ready, it really is. We think it's close, but we're in tech preview to make sure that we can work with some of our best customers to really harden it. It's getting there. We wouldn't have put it in tech preview if we didn't think the underlying technology was mature enough to be there.

IDGE: And this is a tough one to answer since you're early into this enterprise-ready OpenStack market, but how do you expect that what you're offering will differ from what comes down the road from other providers?

Whitehurst: My general observation is that most software companies, especially startup software companies, short-circuit the model. Here's what I mean by that: When we come out with a version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, I'll use that as an example, we commit to supporting that thing for 10 years. We put 100, 150 engineers against that, and they need to stay with that for 10 years because there is no way you can offer true, solid, SLA production-level support without the test harnesses and all of the work that we do to get that ready, but also the commitment that we're going to continue to be able to patch the thing for a long period of time. The security updates, the patching, the hardware updates, all those things we do without ever breaking application binary compatibility.

The issue you're going to have with something like OpenStack is we're going in with our eyes wide open. It will take -- I'm making up numbers now, but call it hundreds of people for us to effectively be able to offer an enterprise version of OpenStack. In our model, at some point we freeze the spec, we move the bits over, we do tons of testing in the test harnesses, just high level, trying to run things at extremes and then ultimately committing to supporting that for a number of years. That's going to take a lot of people. You have startups around OpenStack, but when they look at the cost of development, of putting 100 people against making this thing solid and supporting it for the next x years, most of the companies say, "I can't afford to do that, so I'm going to go with the open source code and I'm going to offer support on top of that." That does not work. That's like building a building on top of sand.

I think the thing that we bring that others won't is the dollars, the commitment, and the know-how to be able to build an enterprise class [product]. And the dollars to then take that enterprise class piece of software and support it for a reasonable lifecycle. Obviously for the early days of OpenStack, that's not going to be a 10-year lifecycle, but it will be a lifecycle enough that our customers can feel confident that they can put it in production and have our commitment to support over a long period of time.

I've preached this to open source companies, if you are just offering support on open source, you're not a software company, you're a services company. And services companies have a lot lower margin and they're a lot less scalable.

This article, "Red Hat CEO: We're the cloud leader -- with Linux," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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