Q&A: Red Hat's Jim Whitehurst Maps The Road To $5 Billion


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At a high level, what I would say is we built a nice multibillion-dollar business being a viable alternative, but what's really going to drive us to the next level is the fact that open source is the default choice.

Now that doesn't mean that Red Hat is the default choice. Open source is the default choice and our role is to make it consumable for enterprise customers. A big role that we play is to make this innovation that's happening largely at Web 2.0 companies consumable for enterprise customers.

So, you've passed this inflection point where open source is no longer merely an alternative. It’s the driver of innovation. But it took almost 15 years since the launch of Red Hat Enterprise Linux to reach $2 billion in sales. How do you more than double that mark in just five years?

It's basically a five-year plan, $5 billion. It does imply an acceleration in our growth rate. And a lot of that is because we are at the center of key trends, whether that's private cloud infrastructure, telco NFV [network function virtualization], containers and all the components around containers, and how you manage all of that in a hybrid cloud way.

Again, the default choice is open source, so we have a seat at the table with CIOs as they're thinking about the future. That's very different than when we were a viable alternative and were helping the purchasing people and the data center people carve out costs, which is perfectly fine. But now it's much more. As we're building out next-generation architectures, that’s primarily an open-source question.

That's why you see Microsoft starting to embrace open source more. It's not because, I think, they want to give away software. It's that developers are using open source so you've got to open source .NET to be relevant.

And Microsoft is also offering Red Hat Linux in their cloud.

Right. Think about PaaS. IBM is using Cloud Foundry. We're obviously using Kubernetes and Docker. That whole next generation of infrastructure is going to be open.

What products do you see driving Red Hat's growth?

At the IaaS layer, OpenStack, and we're seeing tremendous traction. OpenStack has been around for a while but it's just now reaching a level of maturity that we see enterprises running material large workloads.

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