As for the value proposition that RHEL brings to building cloud computing infrastructures, Whitehurst said he was surprised in some ways about the momentum his company is getting in this hot area.
"I say that because we didn't form a 'cloud' unit, or sit down and say, 'What software do we need to develop for the cloud?'" Whitehurst said. "It turns out that if you build very layered, modular, standardized architecture, and you sell it in a very flexible, nonlicensed way so people can deploy it the way they want, when they want, without having to worry about the number of cores or what country they're in, etc.-all of a sudden, you've built an architecture that kind of looks like a cloud."
Red Hat's layered architecture-from the operating system to the virtualization layer to the application server and SOA (service-oriented architecture) above that-works well with clouds, Whitehurst said.
"No. 2, the layering works particularly well with many people's business models," Whitehurst said. "Take our virtualization layer, for example. We feel really good about it, first of all. Anybody can manage it with our set of APIs. You can manage it with Tivoli, OpenView-if you want to use anybody, you can."
Application mobility is another key selling point for using RHEL in the cloud, Whitehurst said.
"An application certified on RHEL, that certification works whether it's bare metal, in a virtual instance or on a cloud that's running our virtual infrastructure. So, when people say, 'I want to run this app in my cloud,' well, how do you know if it will run, and run well-and if you can get tech support? If it's running our virt in RHEL, it's certified to run," he said.
At this point, Red Hat is not ready to give customers "cloud in a box," Whitehurst said. "We're doing specific layers that open source is really good at. If you want to get 'cloud in a box' from IBM or HP or whomever, then have at it!"
As for increasing competition in the enterprise open-source software space, Whitehurst had this to say about Ubuntu, the 5-year-old upstart Debian Linux-derived distribution that has been making inroads into the data center in some sectors.
"Look, I'd never want to underestimate a competitor, but that said, the capabilities required to come out with a good distribution are vastly different from building a business model around an enterprise edition," Whitehurst said.
"The code is free; we built a business model around the massive certifications, the support, the performance of professional services, etc. Frankly, we're uniquely positioned there. There are no other materially sized, profitable open-source software companies.
"It's because we've figured out that the software is free and how to build value beyond that."
Ubuntu has done a "wonderful job of getting out and promoting desktop Linux," Whitehurst said. "The more desktop Linux we get out there, the better. But as soon as you start saying 'server,' the code is just the beginning. I think they're [Ubuntu] a ways away."
For more information on the Red Hat Summit, go here.
Editor's note: This story was updated to clarify information about the RHEL 5.4 beta version, which is now being tested.