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Paul Cormier Named New CEO Of Red Hat, Jim Whitehurst To Become IBM President

With James Whitehurst transitioning to parent IBM, Cormier will lead Big Blue’s subsidiary, juggling mandates to maintain independence while powering IBM’s hybrid cloud business.

Red Hat’s longtime product chief Paul Cormier on Monday replaced James Whitehurst as CEO, taking charge of the open source leader as it enters a crucial phase in establishing its identity as an IBM subsidiary.

With Whitehurst finally stepping into the prominent role of IBM president, Cormier becomes responsible for balancing the duel Red Hat missions declared after the landmark $34 billion acquisition—maintaining Red Hat’s independence as a vendor of technology used across all major clouds while leveraging that technology to distinguish and accelerate IBM’s hybrid cloud business.

As Red Hat’s leading product visionary for almost two decades, Cormier drove more than 25 acquisitions during that tenure. He expanded the business from almost solely a Linux distributor to a comprehensive open source software vendor that’s an enterprise powerhouse not only in operating systems, but cutting-edge technologies like cloud, containers and DevOps.

[Related: Red Hat Summit: 5 Boldest Remarks From IBM, Microsoft and Red Hat CEOs]

In a letter sent to Red Hat employees in lieu of an in-person assembly due to the coronavirus pandemic, Cormier said new IBM CEO Arvind Krishna, who championed the Red Hat acquisition, will continue to be an advocate for the Raleigh, North Carolina-headquartered company’s independence.

“He is committed to keeping Red Hat Red Hat and he knows that part of that is having someone in this leadership position that understands us and what makes the company tick,” Cormier said.

“IBM knows that the best way for us to continue to lead the industry is to allow us to stay on our mission while helping us scale.”

Cormier, previously Red Hat’s president of products and technologies, has been a major advocate for open source software, which came through in his letter to employees.

When he moved into the same job in 2001, Cormier said the Red Hat team was “on a mission to convince the world that open source was real, safe and enterprise-grade.”

“To do that we had to take risks,” he said, both in developing and prioritizing products like Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and executing strategic acquisitions like Qumranet and eNovance, which delivered virtualization and OpenStack cloud consulting businesses respectively.

“We had the fortitude to take these risks along with the people to tackle them skillfully, ultimately helping to drive real change in the IT industry,” Cormier said. “Because of our close ties with open source communities, we are able to see trends building before much of the world does.”

Red Hat has advanced open source into the leading methodology for many areas of enterprise computing, “including infrastructure, application development and associated tools, and bluntly, real innovation,” he said.

Bradley Brodkin, CEO of HighVail Systems, a leading Red Hat partner based in Toronto, said Cormier has long been the “true technical driver at Red Hat,” and as such, he was the “logical and natural choice” to take over from Whitehurst.

The promotion of an engineer to lead the company hints that Red Hat may be shifting its own sales efforts to IBM, Brodkin added.

As to Whitehurst, his move to IBM was also a natural progression, Brodkin said.

“I still believe he’s destined to be the next IBM CEO if they are successful in this transformation,” he said.

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