Red Hat CEO Dismisses Novell, Ubuntu Threats


Red Hat is developing drivers to make its Linux distribution run better with Windows, but its CEO dismissed Novell's interoperability partnerships with Microsoft and Dell as a threat.

In a press conference at the Red Hat Summit in San Diego, Red Hat CEO Matt Szulik said customers have been asking for better interoperability for 14 years and have received nothing from Microsoft. True interoperability, he said, will be achieved by supporting open standards at the middleware layer in a service-oriented environment, not through private corporate partnerships.

"Everyone talks about interoperability," Szulik said. "What our customers have asked for is not basic file system interoperability, but at the data level. Interoperability is a great thing, and it's why we acquired JBoss."

During his keynote, Szulik said nothing about rivals Novell and Ubuntu. But he noted that Red Hat will prevail based on open standards, a robust Linux distribution and innovations such as its next-generation, services-oriented client desktop, code-named Sugar, that departs from the traditional Windows GUI paradigm.

Still, like Novell, Red Hat will provide Windows drivers due for release later this year to enable better interoperability for Windows workloads on its virtualized Linux distribution, executives acknowledged at the summit. The Raleigh, N.C.-based Linux leader is also working on metadata and data migration technology for the next-gen services-oriented era.

Novell, meanwhile, continues to turn up the heat on Red Hat. Earlier on Wednesday, Novell and Microsoft announced the names of 12 customers that intend to take advantage of their strategic collaboration on interoperability. The list includes 1blu, Arsys, Fujitsu Services Oy, Gordon Food Service, Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., hi5 Networks, Host Europe, Nationwide, Prisacom, Reed Elsevier, Save Mart Supermarkets and the State of California Department of Fish and Game.

The pact calls for developing joint solutions, co-marketing of SUSE Linux certificates and indemnification for customers running Windows and Linux together.

And earlier this week, Novell and Microsoft announced that Dell is the first OEM to join their collaboration. As part of the deal, for example, Dell said it will buy SUSE Linux Enterprise Server certificates from Microsoft and create a services and marketing program to migrate Linux users from other Linux camps to SUSE Linux.

Some Linux backers have denounced the interoperability pact of Novell and Microsoft because it could threaten the principles of open source. But others say the deals are necessary for Linux to advance in the commercial world.

When asked if Red Hat would try to execute similar deals to make corporate customers "feel good" about its Linux interoperability with Windows, Szulik said customers don't want what Microsoft and Novell are selling.

'I don't have customers that want to feel good," he quipped. "They don't have the patience anymore for the rhetoric."

Szulik said Novell has a historically strong partnership with Dell, but Red Hat continues to have a partnership with Dell that serves customers' needs.

He also said Red Hat has continued to reach out to Microsoft to enable better interoperability, but the Linux company would only agree to a pact based on open standard such as native XML.

"We don't want to see standards-based activities to become compromised," Szulik said.

Red Hat's CEO also praised the fast-rising Ubuntu Linux distribution but said government and corporate customers need greater security, management, document conversion and support capabilities for the data center.

He also noted that the traditional desktop GUI paradigm of Windows used by Ubuntu will become extinct in a service-oriented architecture.

"It's important you balance use and align that to markets," Szulik said, noting that the "inexpensive" graphical metaphor is going away. "It's less and less about the presentation layer," he added.