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New CEO Must Prove Red Hat's More Than A One-Trick Pony

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Linux

When Matthew Szulik stepped down as CEO of Red Hat in December to cope with his wife's illness, the company picked a surprising successor: Jim Whitehurst, the former chief operating officer at Delta Air Lines whose main tech cred seemed to be that he runs loads of Linux on his home PCs.

If Whitehurst is a controversial pick, that might be a good sign for Red Hat, a company that's at a key juncture. It's doing just fine as a quiet company, racking up an overwhelming majority of the businesses that pay to use the Linux server operating system. With 21% profit margins, 40% annual sales growth, and more than a half-billion dollars in the bank, it has proved that selling subscription-based support is a viable business model for open source software. Under Szulik, however, Red Hat shied away from becoming an activist leader of the open source software movement. Now Red Hat needs to prove it's more than Linux, and that means assuming a much larger role than the company--or its CEO--has ever had in the open source community.

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Jim Whitehurst, named CEO of Red Hat in late December, talked with editor at large Charles Babcock about the challenges ahead for the Linux distributor, from competing with Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) to getting value out of its JBoss acquisition. Here are excerpts from that discussion:

Q & A with Jim Whitehurst

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Collaboration Events: Pakistan Open Source Summit, GNOME+Rust Hackfest, DataworksSummit Berlin

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  • Madrid GNOME+Rust Hackfest, part 2
    Yesterday we went to the Madrid Rust Meetup, a regular meeting of rustaceans here. Martin talked about WebRender; I talked about refactoring C to port it to Rust, and then Alex talked about Rust's plans for 2018. Fun times.
  • DataworksSummit Berlin - Wednesday morning
    Data strategy - cloud strategy - business strategy: Aligning the three was one of the main themes (initially put forward in his opening keynote by CTO of Hortonworks Scott Gnau) thoughout this weeks Dataworks Summit Berlin kindly organised and hosted by Hortonworks. The event was attended by over 1000 attendees joining from 51 countries. The inspiration hat was put forward in the first keynote by Scott was to take a closer look at the data lifecycle - including the fact that a lot of data is being created (and made available) outside the control of those using it: Smart farming users are using a combination of weather data, information on soil conditions gathered through sensors out in the field in order to inform daily decisions. Manufacturing is moving towards closer monitoring of production lines to spot inefficiencies. Cities are starting to deploy systems that allow for better integration of public services. UX is being optimized through extensive automation.

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