Red Hat CEO: Choose flexibility or Larry Ellison

At the Red Hat Summit 2009, CEO Jim Whitehurst took on rival Oracle's inflexibility as his company launched Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4

Preaching on Red Hat's perceptions of open source, Red Hat President and CEO Jim Whitehurst on Wednesday asked the audience at the company's technical conference whether they want flexibility in their IT architectures or if they want what Oracle CEO Larry Ellison supposedly wants.

During his keynote presentation at the Red Hat Summit 2009 conference in Chicago, Whitehurst covered Red Hat talking points, including how the company is working to build future IT architectures that are flexible and allow its customers to meet demands of their own internal customers. Ellison, on the other hand, presents the opposite of flexibility, according to Whitehurst.

[ Red Hat has been both lauding and criticizing Microsoft's Linux efforts. ]

"Do you want to buy into Larry Ellison's vision of what your IT infrastructure should be and what functionality you should provide to your customers, or should you listen to your customers and be flexible," Whitehurst asked.  Red Hat and Oracle have been in fierce competition, with Oracle offering customer support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and thus potentially cutting into Red Hat's critical revenue stream. Oracle, contacted after Whitehurst's presentation, declined to respond to his remarks about Ellison.

Whitehurst also described what he termed an "inflection point in enterprise IT," in which new, high-profile ventures, such as Google, Twitter, Red Hat, Facebook, and Wikipedia, all are based on the power of participation.

"These companies would not exist if it were not for open source," and the ability to innovate quickly, said Whitehurst.

Red Hat, he said, believes in a layered architecture where there are layers that should be commoditized. The company also is helping hundreds of customers build clouds, Whitehurst said.

Noting the company's acquisition of open source Java middleware vendor JBoss, Whitehurst said he is often asked why Red Hat did not  buy Java framework vendor SpringSource. "Well, we don't want to prescribe what framework, what language, how you want to build your functionality. We want to build for all of them," he said. Red Hat is holding its JBoss World conference concurrently with Red Hat Summit.

At the conference, Red Hat announced availability of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4, which serves as the foundation of the company's enterprise virtualization portfolio. It features KVM (kernel-based virtual machine) technology and Intel Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O as well as PCI-SIG SR-IOV, enabling multiple virtual machines in an Intel Xeon Processor 5500 Series platform to directly share I/O devices, Red Hat said.

Version 5.4 also offers advancements in performance, security and storage, the company said.

Red Hat's Paul Cormier, executive vice president of products and technologies, stressed the company's emphasis on virtualization. "We're going to make virtualization readily available and readily deployable throughout the enterprise datacenter," Cormier said.

Red Hat also announced availability of Red Hat Network Satellite 5.3, for on-premises systems management. It enables software updates, configuration management, provisioning and monitoring across physical and virtual Red Hat Enterprise Linux servers. The 5.3 release supports KVM and Xen virtualization and offers increased flexibility for systems management as well as faster provisioning.

In another presentation on Wednesday morning, IBM's Bob Sutor, vice president of open source and Linux, hailed the proliferation of Linux. "Linux has gotten to the point where for many people, it's almost assumed you're running Linux," he said.

The conference also featured Derek Chan, head of digital operations at Dreamworks Animation, who touted the company's use of cloud and grid computing in movies like "Monsters vs. Aliens." The company has built a compute grid with more than 9,000 cores, he said. "Monsters vs. Aliens" took more than 40 million render hours to complete, he said. Cloud computing provides quick scalability and efficiency, he said.

"For us, really, the key benefits to the computational grid and cloud environment is really distributed computing," Chan said.

He also emphasized virtualization. "We believe virtualization will play a significant role in providing security going forward," said Chan.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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