Thursday Jun 26, 2008

My Interview with Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst

Figuring I had nothing to lose, the first day of the Red Hat summit I introduced myself to Red Hat's new CEO and president, Jim Whitehurst and asked if he would be up for a podcast. 

Instead of making up some plausible excuse, he was very receptive and gave me his card.  He also gave me his cell number and told me to give him a call the following day to set something up.

When we got together I was very impressed with how approachable and down to earth Jim was as well as his excitement and enthusiasm for his job.  Take a listen...

My interview with Jim (12:10)  Listen (Mp3) Listen (ogg)


Fedora fan #1, Jim Whitehurst

Some of the topics we tackle:

  • How Jim heard about the opportunity at Red Hat
  • Jim's programming background and his work at Delta as COO
  • Matt Szulik is the visionary, Jim's emphasis is on execution and "focus, focus, focus"
  • Red Hat is "all in" when it comes to open source and how their last non-free offering (RHN satellite) went free that day.
  • Proprietary software isn't wrong, open source is simply a better model (that being said, he'd love to see IBM open source DB2)
  • His conversation with Jonathan Schwartz and the challenge that Jonathan faces
  • Reaching out to other open source players and taking them to dinner
  • What are Jim's biggest opportunities and challenges
  • Jim's key areas of focus for Red Hat (a couple of which are virtualization and making sure Linux is "cloud ready")
Pau for now...

Monday Jun 23, 2008

Back From Boston and the Red Hat Summit and FUDCON

The second half of last week I attended the Red Hat Summit and FUDCon which Sun and MySQL were silver sponsors of.  The events were co-located at the Hynes convention center in Boston. 

Although both events featured an impressive list of topics and tracks, other than the keynotes I spent the majority of my time meeting and talking to people.   One of my goals was to figure out how Sun can better work with Fedora to get more of our software into their distro. 


A few key Fedorans: Max Spevak, Dennis Gilmore, Tom "Spot" Callaway, Jeremy Katz, Paul Frields, Jesse Keating. 

President and CEO Jim Whitehurst chats with Fedora board member, Karsten Wade, while Spot keeps a watchful eye out for ninjas. 

Notes from Jim Whitehurst's two talks 

I saw Red Hat's CEO speak both at the opening keynote as well as to the assembled Fedorans at FUDCon.  Here are the high-level notes I took: 

The Keynote 

Jim has only been CEO since the beginning of this year and his speech was short on vision and long on reassuring the assembled customers, partners and developers that he was true to the company's open source vision. 

  • Red Hat is the leader in Open Source "period, full stop."
  • One of the greatest features of Open Source is that the best ideas win.
  • Jim discussed the recent patent settlement that Red Hat made talking about how it was the first time a patent settlement was made that was consistent with the GPL.
  • Red Hat will remain 100% Open Source and has no intention of becoming proprietary.
  • Job #1 is execute, execute, execute.
  • RH will be delivering more products this year than any other year in the past.
  • Service and Support are not career backwaters, the are key career paths.
  • Red Hat's weakness is they are not always the easiest company to work with.
  • The company's goal is to make community innovation accessible to their customers.
  • Jim talked about unlocking the closed software that is hidden away inside of corporations and gave the examples of JPMorgan and a Canadian Insurance company that turned projects of theirs over to the community

At FUDcon

Jim only spoke for about 20 minutes and then turned it over to questions from the audience.  I was impressed at how open he seemed and genuinely interested he was in the ideas and suggestions that came from the audience.   He was quite relaxed and let the session run over the allotted hour.

One area that he cleared up was Red Hat's desktop strategy which he said was to be a player in the enterprise desktop but not the consumer market.  Also when asked about the "Spaceman" he commented that he had never met Mark Shuttleworth but had some issues with the way Canonical did some things pointing out that while they may comply with the letter of the GPL, Ubuntu didn't necessarily comply with its spirit.

Stay Tuned

Right after the FUDcon talk I was able to grab Jim for a few minutes for a podcast.  I hope to have that up in a few days for all to hear. 


Sunset across the Charles taken at the Thursday night party at the Prudential Tower's Skywalk Observatory

Pau for now...

About

I look after Sun's relationships with the various GNU/Linux communities as well as our relationship with the FSF. Last year, my family and I emigrated from Silicon Valley to Austin, TX.

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