Red Hat CEO Tells LinuxCon Crowd What Makes Linux Stand Out
Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat, explains at LinuxCon how the open-source management style works.TORONTO—Five years ago, on the 20th anniversary of Linux, Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst delivered a keynote address at LinuxCon. Today, he returned to the LinuxCon stage here to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of Linux, bringing a message not all that different from the one he shared in 2011. The Linux world, however, is a different place in 2016, with one-time mortal foe Microsoft now embracing the open-source model. Whitehurst briefly shared the keynote stage with Wim Coekaerts, corporate vice president of enterprise open source at Microsoft, which is something that wouldn't have happened five years ago. Red Hat and Microsoft today partner at multiple levels, as the message and value of open source has continued to expand. During his keynote, Whitehurst said that it's hard to talk about the history of Red Hat without talking about the history of Linux and vice versa, as the two are very much intertwined. Back in the 1990s when Red Hat got started a few years after Linux's birth, Whitehurst said his company didn't have a great business model. At one point, Red Hat actually tried to sell shrink-wrapped boxed software at big box retailers. Around 2001, Red Hat first introduced the enterprise open-source software model that is the core of the company's business today. The basic idea is to bundle open-source software together, test and certify the software, and then provide multiple years of enterprise-grade support. With Linux in the enterprise, Whitehurst said he would have expected it to be a bottoms-up adoption cycle with developers bringing the technology in first, but that's not what happened. Whitehurst said that Red Hat has been very successful with a "top down" approach too, with some big early wins for Red Hat Enterprise Linux with investment banks running large trading platforms. The reasons why the investment banks chose Linux had nothing to do with open-source ideals, either.
"Investment banks don't typically care about freedom; they don't really even care that much about cost. They care about hav[ing] the best features and functionality," Whitehurst said. "It turns out Linux on x86 is faster than Unix on RISC."