Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst is speaking this year at LinuxCon on opening day about the challenges that still lie ahead as we embark on another 20 years of Linux. We wanted to know more about Whitehurst’s perspective as we prepare for the big event and the formal celebration of the 20th anniversary of Linux. Here’s what he told us.
The Linux operating systems turns 20 years-old this year, and Red Hat is a huge part of its story. How do you view Linux and its future as we begin to celebrate this important milestone?
Whitehurst: Linux is clearly the operating system driving web 2.0 and cloud computing. Virtually any new application and/or any new web start-up is building a Linux-based stack. That’s huge: Linux has gone from being a “viable alternative” to traditional operating systems to being the “default choice.” We should all be very proud of that.
How are customer requirements and expectations changing with regards to Linux?
Whitehurst: That’s a tough one to answer. As Linux grows and matures, the customers, and therefore the requirements, are becoming more diverse. There are some very technical customers who have specific demands around performance, scalability, reliability and/or security. But there are also the mainstream customers who really just want it to work. They want their preferred applications certified to run on Linux and they want their partners to be able to provide services around Linux.
What is the most important challenge for Linux today in the enterprise, and what needs to happen to address it?
Whitehurst: At this point I think most everyone agrees that Linux is a viable alternative to traditional operating systems. That battle has been won. The next few years will be around turning that acceptance into usage. Linux is still just a quarter of server OS installations. That should ultimately be well north of 50 percent. There’s a lot of basic blocking and tackling to make that happen, but we’re well on our way.
Industry pundits are speculating that Red Hat will hit the $1B revenue milestone this year. You’ve written about the company being an example for other open source companies with regards to profitability. What does this particular milestone to mean to you, your company and to Linux overall?
Whitehurst: I think Red Hat’s success is important to Linux and open source broadly. Our success demonstrates that it is possible to leverage the power of participation and still build a viable for-profit business. Our profitability serves as an example for others which ultimately drives additional investments by companies, individuals and VCs in open source development.
The LinuxCon Gala is the official celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Linux and a number of notable Linux luminaries are expected. Who do you hope to see there and why?
Whitehurst: I want to meet Linus. Believe it or not, we haven’t had the opportunity to meet yet. He’s an extraordinary individual, and I’m hoping to get some time with him.