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Red Hat Software Businesses Linux Business

Interview with Red Hat's New CEO 129

mjasay writes "Red Hat just got a new CEO, Jim Whitehurst, but based on a recent CNET interview with him, he's cut from the same cloth as Matthew Szulik, Red Hat's former CEO. He won't buy an iPod because it won't play Ogg Vorbis files. He refused other CEO roles because he 'must have a mission.' He suggests that taking proprietary shortcuts is a fundamentally wrong way to build a software business. And he believes Red Hat should be doing $5 billion, not $500 million. It's a question of operational excellence and on focusing on its core businesses, according to Whitehurst."
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Interview with Red Hat's New CEO

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  • by Facetious ( 710885 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @06:46PM (#21916386) Journal
    I bought my wife an iAudio mp3 player from Cowon for the very reason that it plays ogg files. It works beautifully.
  • Great News! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by filbranden ( 1168407 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @06:49PM (#21916442)

    Great News! I hope this guy does as much as he speaks!

    Red Hat is a great company, has very good products, but still has to enhance its support. Also, with Ubuntu getting market share on desktops, and SuSE trying to grab some piece of the servers pie (although I don't think they will after the Microsoft deal), Red Hat needs someone like him to lead it so that it keeps its leadership.

    I wish well to Mr. Whitehurst and sincerelly hope he can make Red Hat grow as much as he plans to!

  • by Skyshadow ( 508 ) * on Friday January 04, 2008 @07:01PM (#21916610) Homepage
    I worked for SGI when I was an intern. This was back when they were realizing that nobody wanted to pay $20k for a workstation anymore.

    SGI had some pretty kick-ass server gear and had just purchased Cray, so naturally they responsed by coming up with a half-ass NT desktop that, likewise, nobody wanted. They played to their weakness rather than their strength, and the result was that they lost bigtime.

    This strikes me as being similar: They're playing to their weakness, trying to get to where everyone else is doing well and not realizing that (a) the space is already fairly saturated and (b) the competitors waiting for them there are better than they are at the sort of thing they do.

    And who gives a shit if he's a OSS zealot? The way to help out our common interest here is to succeed -- I don't care if the guy will only listen to 8-tracks, I want to hear his plan for turning the company around. This isn't like an airline where your ass can be bailed out by the cyclical nature of the business -- while people always need an airplane to get someplace, in the end they really don't need your distro. You can't just keep flying and charge $5 for snack boxes.
  • by NoMaster ( 142776 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @07:23PM (#21916652) Homepage Journal
    "I believe what you believe ... blah blah blah ... trust me, I'm good, not evil ... blah blah blah ... again, I believe what you believe ... we're great, but we should be 10x better ... blah blah blah ... you need to work harder, focus more, and buy our stuff .. blah blah blah".

    If this is "News For Nerds" to you, then you've been living under a rock for the last 30+ years...

  • by joeflies ( 529536 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @07:27PM (#21916700)
    "Red Hat should be doing $5 billion, not $500 million." - OK, sounds like he wants to grow the top line, which is an expansion of revenue. So how's he going to do it?

    "It's a question of operational excellence and on focusing on its core businesses" - whoops, looks like his corporate speak backing statement is talking about cutting costs, not top line growth. You can make a company more profitable with these tasks, but it doesn't outline how you're going to make more money.

  • by RotateLeftByte ( 797477 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @07:51PM (#21916940)
    There is no way in hell that you can get from $500M to $5B just by cutting costs unless of course, your cost base is totally messed up and by all accounts that is not true at RH.

    RH will have to grow and improve its support as well as enlarging their product portfolio. Generic Linux Service growth will IMHO not get them much beyond the $1B mark.

    I can only hope that the new CEO can fix the issues with JBOSS and that the lessons learned here can be taken forward so that future purchases don't suffer the same problems.

    The thing about(IMHO) RH is that they really don't do the self promotion thing very well especially when compared to others in the Linux business.

  • by alexborges ( 313924 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @08:32PM (#21917398)
    Gosh, what is it with people that think linux needs this or that to "survive". Linux is by far the most ported OS of all time, it works everywere in embeded devices, probably in your wifi router, probably in your home isdn/cable/ADSL router.

    It powers google, a good chunk of yahoo and im pretty sure some good part of the online infrastructure at microsoft, ibm, hp and many other non-it related companies.

    Linux is NEVER going to die, with or without adobe on board. Adobe is not porting due to they feeling its not worth it. But FOSS may very well give them a run for their money. Weve done it before, we will do it again and, when the time comes that Adobe sees a market for linux, they may very well end up being the underdog in our ecosystem due to them not starting to compete earlyer with equivalent foss solutions.

    Now. Is Linux going to Conquer The World? I dunno. I hope it does.
  • by Ash Vince ( 602485 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @08:33PM (#21917416) Journal

    I just wanted to know whether he'd switch Redhat to apt and .deb in the near future, and whether he sees a significant role for KDE in Redhat's core business plans. In my opinion, Redhat should switch to apt and KDE.
    He probably will not do anything of the kind. CEO stands for Chief Executive Officer, not Choosing Engineering Officer. The sort of decisions you mention are technological decisions (yes, even the KDE one). He makes decisions like "aim our products at a more accessible market" then gets other people to come up with various ideas as to how to achieve that aim. CEO's are there to give a company direction not choose which technology to use to solve a particular problem.

    Not that this guy would be unable to, but he probably has far better things to do with his time that cannot be done by others underneath him.

    In response to your comment about KDE there is a very good reason that RedHat use Gnome by default (IMHO): It is more like windows.

    The problem with KDE is that the people who design the interface refuse to acknowledge that Windows is what everyone is used to and you need to make the transition away from that as easy as possible. Gnome has certain key features (like cut and paste) that are as close to the windows functionality as possible.

    Since Redhat want to gain new customers they need to make their solutions look as familiar as possible to people coming from windows.

    In regard to your point about apt I can really comment since I have never used it. The last time I used RPM though it put me off using Redhat for any of my own machines again so maybe you have a point.
  • by Vellmont ( 569020 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @09:02PM (#21917718) Homepage
    I looked into buying the RH supported version of JBoss recently. The LOWEST priced supported version is $2000 per year! I'm not exactly sure what market RH is going for here, maybe the Fortune 500 and large institutions, but it sure as hell isn't me.

    I'll stick with the unsupported free version, thanks. I just can't see getting $2000/year value for just some extra support I'll likely never use anyway.
  • by allcar ( 1111567 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @09:10PM (#21917780)
    But his point is still sound. He won't buy an iPod, because Apple are not supporting Ogg Vorbis. Just because you can replace the firmware does not change this. Apple still get the money from you.
  • Re:CentOS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DamnStupidElf ( 649844 ) <Fingolfin@linuxmail.org> on Friday January 04, 2008 @09:12PM (#21917792)
    I love CentOS as much as the next guy, but lets face it, their job is to compile srpms giving a clone of RHEL. They do it well, but thats hardly a "contribution" to anything.

    It's a contribution to Redhat. When people who've been using CentOS at home or for development want support at work, which distro do you think they'll buy support for? It's also a contribution to the community, because they explicitly make sure all the GPL code stays available and compilable. I wouldn't doubt if they find and report (and probably fix) bugs as well.
  • by burnin1965 ( 535071 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @10:13PM (#21918370) Homepage

    What he should do is cozy up to Adobe and get them to port the Creative Suite over to Linux, and then sell Adobe CS(4 or 5 or whatever) on a dedicated box running RedHat Linux
    I can understand not taking the time to read the article before posting, but did you even bother to read the summary your responding to?

    "He suggests that taking proprietary shortcuts is a fundamentally wrong way to build a software business."

    Its not likely that people are going to switch to linux because one popular proprietary application runs on linux, OSX, and Windows. They'll likely take the easiest route and stick with the status quo and purchase the Adobe software to run on their existing Windows/OSX box. Which means the effort required to get Adobe to port their apps to linux is pointless. If anything its a benefit to Adobe to port their apps if they want to sell them to people like me who are currently outside of their market possibilities because I refuse to run Windows or OSX, I use linux for my desktop.

    I take his stance to be that if the open source apps on linux are not good enough then the correct solution is to put effort into the linux alternative apps, not take a short cut and try to get a proprietary vendor to port their closed source proprietary apps.

    And given that the effort to do it the right way will be more difficult than giving in to short cuts, the pay offs would be bigger as well. If Red Hat can undercut the cost of a Windows/OSX system and Adobe apps for a development workstation by utilizing 100% non-proprietary open source applications then they will have a compelling reason for people to switch and consider Red Hat subscription services to support their platform choice.

    Undercutting the massive profit margins on proprietary software is far more compelling than giving in to the same.
  • Wallet vote (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DrYak ( 748999 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @10:15PM (#21918382) Homepage
    His refusal to buy iPod has also to do with that stuff called "vote-with-your-wallet" that /.ers are often talking about.

    Yes, by buy an iPod and replacing the firmware with Rockbox he *could* get OGG/Vorbis to play on his iPod.
    *BUT*, by doing so, he would be giving money and thus encouraging a company that refuses to support OGG/Vorbis out of the box and that is known to actively discorage homebrew hacking of their hardware (see iPhone).

    He would be better giving his money to a company that does openly support OGG/Vorbis (Samsung or the countless no-name asian USB stick/media players) or at least a company that publicly encourage 3rd party developers and 3rd party media codecs. ...On the other hand, at least the iPod isn't some PlaysForSure crap...
  • Re:core business (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Klaruz ( 734 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @10:29PM (#21918472)
    Which is downright idiotic. When it was free, Redhat was EVERYWHERE. Almost the instant they stopped putting isos out, that changed. Sure, you have fedora, but its such a moving target you can't really use it on sort of stable system. I hope that by focusing on their core business, which is distributing and supporting open source software, they'll see the light and start to ship a free enterprise level distro again. Yes, I use CentOS, but that doesn't really contribute to the Redhat name, or provide a path for them to provide support in exchange for money when its needed.
  • by glwtta ( 532858 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @10:38PM (#21918550) Homepage
    This includes Sansa, Archos, iRiver, Cowon and others.

    All Cowon players support Ogg out of the box (as well as just about every single other audio and video format). They actually have a really nice line-up all around; some of the best sound quality you will find in portables, too.

    Now if only they hadn't crippled the A3 with that "you've-got-to-be-joking" battery life...
  • Blah, blah, blah? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gazzonyx ( 982402 ) <scott,lovenberg&gmail,com> on Saturday January 05, 2008 @02:29AM (#21919964)
    He doesn't have to say "I believe what you believe... blah, blah, blah"; this man walks the walk.
    from Can an airline exec run Red Hat? You'd be surprised [zdnet.com]

    Whitehurst has a geek streak. On last night's earnings conference call Szulik noted:

    As we went through the recruiting process, we did interview a number of people that I am sure are familiar to this audience listening from the technology industry and what we encountered, of course, was in many cases a lack of understanding of open source software development, a lack of understanding of our model. And as importantly for me, the open mindedness that would come to both the creation of new economic models and contemporary thinking as it relates to software development.

    In my first meeting with Jim Whitehurst, we discussed the four Linux distributions that he was running on his home personal network. He was running Fedora Core 6 and Fedora Core 7 at home. He was running Slackware at home and he was an experienced software developer up until the time that he was at BCG (Boston Consulting Group). So we are getting a technically savvy executive who happens to have strong operational, financial, and strategic skills and it was in my view that in comparison to his peers that were finalists for the job, that he stood head and shoulders above, in light of all of the qualities that we were looking for in my successor.
    Don't make assumptions about the suits the same way they make assumptions about us (the geeks).
  • by TechForensics ( 944258 ) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @03:14AM (#21920140) Homepage Journal

    I can understand not taking the time to read the article before posting, but did you even bother to read the summary your responding to?

    You must be new here.

  • Re:tick tock! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ilgaz ( 86384 ) * on Saturday January 05, 2008 @07:38AM (#21921238) Homepage

    countdown to new CEO saying "I love Microsoft!" and signing a deal?
    Unlike Novell and Suse, Redhat is in very good financial shape. They don't need to sign any deal or hire MS .NET emulator coder trojan people.

When you make your mark in the world, watch out for guys with erasers. -- The Wall Street Journal