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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The big thing that slows down innovation and drives up cost is ultimately when you get stuck on a platform and you can't move it, then vendors start charging you more. That's when all those insidious costs start to build. We can deliver the components for a full cloud solution, but more importantly, if you write to a Red Hat stack you can run it in any environment, including VMware's and Microsoft. And it's all certified and will work. That is a very, very differentiated position from our competitors.

Equally important is we're not a "throw out everything you have." We work well with other people's technologies. You have a VMware investment. Fine, that's OK. You can still build a Red Hat hybrid cloud sitting on top of that or with Microsoft, etc.

IDGE: I want to shift gears and talk about a huge trend that our audiences are dealing with, which is around mobile and BYOD. I'm not clear on Red Hat's mobile strategy. How are you helping companies deal with that piece of the big IT shift that's happening today?

Whitehurst: Our strategy starts with our roots. Any application you're going to serve up on mobile, we have the back-end infrastructure in the data center on which it can run. As these applications get more sophisticated and [support] higher-stakes transactions, the full JBoss portfolio, the ability to do high-level transactions with guaranteed performance and all of those components in the backend infrastructure is critical. We continue to make strides on the front end of that, but frankly we don't have a product in the market today for developers on the front end. I will say we do not play on end-user devices, we think there's plenty of selections out there for end-user devices. So you're not going to see a Red Hat Linux running on devices.

What we're focused on now for customers who are writing applications running on our infrastructure is to help make those mobile front ends easy to write and deploy and then make those easy to manage. At this point, we're mainly doing that via partnerships, companies like Appcelerator. We have our platform-as-a-service called OpenShift, where enterprises can go develop applications, and they can write the client application once and run across platforms on someone like Appcelerator. Click a button and deploy on our platform-as-a-service using Appcelerator as the technology for the mobile client.

IDGE: You have some very aggressive hiring plans in place; I believe the reports have said about 250 people per quarter. Is that correct? Where are you targeting all of these employees?

Whitehurst: It's pretty broad based around the world. We're hiring fairly significantly in the U.S., but we're also adding an entire other building at our facility in Brno, in the Czech Republic. That's where we do a lot of our product engineering that I talked about that drives a lot of cost. We continue to grow our operation in Mountain View, we have several floors of the building there now and that continues to grow with key engineering skill sets. But around the world, we continue to add new countries, new markets on the sales side and expect to continue to do that for quite a while. That sounds like broad hiring, but that's about 20 percent growth this year and we're growing our revenue in a similar-ish kind of vein. So it's kind of pro rata along with our revenue, and our margins are going up this year.

IDGE: On the website The Motley Fool, you were praised very highly as a CEO. What are the keys to your leadership in running a tech company these days?

Whitehurst: Job one is make sure you pick a good company to lead. I've been at Red Hat about four-and-a-half years, and I came into just a phenomenal organization with a great group of people. I know that's hard to find. But my first piece of advice to anybody is make sure you find a great company to lead and they'll make you look good.

But then, second, I think we have a unique culture built around this open source kind of culture, which is meritocracy, very, very open and transparent. We crowdsource even our strategy internally in the company. So as the leader, [I need to have] a very thick skin because when I ask people how I'm doing or their opinions on whatever, anybody in the organization is more than happy to tell me what I'm doing wrong. Having a thick skin, having a lot of humility, really absolutely deeply, deeply, deeply believing that meritocracy is important and the best ideas can come from anywhere in the company.

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