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: I want to explore the competitive landscape and really help readers understand how your strategy and your position differ from some key companies. I'll put them into three different groups, and you may love or hate the groupings, and feel free to comment on them, but help people understand you versus these companies. One is the open source companies like Suse and Canonical.

Whitehurst: They are both just operating system companies, where we provide a full infrastructure stack. They can provide an operating system, but they can't really guide you to a cloud or a holistic infrastructure solution because they don't have the other components. Even within the product of those companies, which is Linux, neither one of them makes significant contributions to the future of Linux. They don't hire a lot of upstream kernel people that are doing a lot of that development. So they can't, on behalf of customers and others, drive forward the long-term agenda of Linux.

Finally, they don't have anywhere near the same certified ecosystem of partners that we have. So you can run Ubuntu, but if you run SAP on it and it crashes, call SAP, they're not going to tech support you on it. Canonical hasn't built that kind of network. For a traditional enterprise, they don't offer that same kind of broad value nor a commitment to a 10-year of life without ever breaking binary compatibility across applications. They just don't quite offer that same kind of true enterprise mission-critical class kind of support and all the required infrastructure and cost around that.

IDGE: How do you stack up against the mainstream IT companies, the companies like IBM, HP, or Oracle?

Whitehurst: All those are great companies, and at least two of those three are our partners. But the issue is they offer holistic solutions. In some cases, holistic solutions make a lot of sense, but in all honesty, you're getting more and more locked into single vendor. While they can offer some nice solutions, you're not talking about agnostic vendors that work across all other vendors.

One of the things that we are most proud of, and we think a key value prop that we have, is our independence and our ability to work closely with HP and IBM and Dell and even Oracle. And that independence, when you start thinking about cloud, where you want to be able to choose from multiple vendors, multiple different ways, we think it's important. Also, again, for especially cloud, the operating system is really, really important and none of the companies you mentioned has an x86 operating system. They have their Unixes, which are from the last generation of computing and there are still some workloads where people use those, but they're certainly not what you think of as cloud operating systems.

IDGE: What about VMware and Microsoft? You mentioned that Microsoft was really the competitor with the full set of offerings. But VMware is trying to tackle a number of the same kind of cloud problems that you're trying to tackle. Talk about the competition there.

Whitehurst: Again, I would say that Microsoft has the most pieces, but when I actually think about who is our largest competitor, it's VMware. We have a very similar vision for the future of computing from a sense of the technology stack. We're going to have abstracted compute, storage and network. It's going to be software managed. Applications will be written at a much higher level. So all of those things I think that we agree with and that's why we have so many products where we are competitive. We obviously think they can't have a holistic stack until they have an operating system, because that's still what applications write to, but in general we have a similar view of computing.

Now, the big difference is how we get there, and we are taking a very open approach and they're taking a very proprietary approach. I mean that in two different ways. VMware has articulated a vision of the future, and they are investing heavily in R&D to deliver that, and they're trying to convince customers that they're right. We take a very, very different view, which not only pervades our technology architecture, it also pervades the way we go to market. We don't necessarily have all the answers, but what we can tell you is that we work to catalyze communities to solve these cloud problems. Don't look to Red Hat to say: Here's the future of Linux or the future of KVM. We work with the largest, most sophisticated IT companies that are not only talking about the road map, they're contributing what they need to make it successful.

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