Red Hat CEO To Partners: 'Each Of You Has A Piece Of $4 Billion'

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Red Hat is going to need a lot of help from its partners.

A week after reporting that the open-source software leader crossed the $2 billion threshold in revenue in 2015, CEO Jim Whitehurst revealed an ambitious goal of becoming a $5 billion company in five years.

The technology is there that will propel his vision, and the company's open-source culture is a unique differentiator, Whitehurst told roughly 250 partners attending its North American Partner Conference in New Orleans on Tuesday. But some number crunching reveals the immense challenge ahead for the software vendor from Raleigh, N.C., in dramatically scaling its business, and why the channel is essential to realizing that goal.

[Related: Red Hat And Microsoft Enter 'Monumental' Linux-Azure Partnership, Creating Major New Opportunities For Channel]

In his keynote address, Whitehurst told partners that Red Hat has 9,000 employees, but to make $5 billion the way it's going now, it projects needing 20,000 in five years. With attrition, that means hiring 17,000 people.

"We would really love to have your help so we don't necessarily have to bring that many people into the company," he said.

If partners help alleviate the staffing dilemma, "the single largest challenge we have as a company," they will have to generate $4 billion of the $5 billion in annual revenue.

"Each of you has a piece of that $4 billion," Whitehurst told attendees.

Red Hat's CEO didn't talk much in the keynote about the specific products that will underlie the growth he expects to see. (He shared his thoughts on the next-generation of open-source technologies, and how they will drive a wave of enterprise adoption a day earlier in an exclusive interview with CRN.)  

But where he sees a source of opportunity, and at the same time what makes Red Hat uniquely capable of helping companies survive the digital disruptions upending so many legacy industries, is in Red Hat's culture itself, and "how it grew up," he said.

The problems enterprise customers are having -- existential for many -- and the capabilities they need to address those problems are "just naturally in the open-source DNA," Whitehurst said.

It's not just about technology, but process and culture, he said, and "that’s why I think the opportunity is so big."

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