Michael Tiemann: Red Hat's CTO examines his role and the future of Linux

www.infoworld.com |  Operating Systems

Michael Tiemann's early work with GNU software created world-leading technologies, becoming an inspiration to Linus Torvalds and an enabling technology for Linux in 1991. He continues to shape the future of open source today as chief technical officer at Red Hat. Prior to joining Red Hat, Tiemann co-founded and served as acting CTO at Cygnus Solutions, which was acquired by Red Hat in January. Tiemann sat down with Editor at Large Ed Scannell to talk about his work at Red Hat and the issues facing Linux in today's marketplace.

InfoWorld: What is your role at Red Hat as CTO?

Tiemann: My role is to basically provide both communication to users about what we are doing and what is happening in the open-source space. It is also taking information from users and from the marketplace and distilling it down so that our product and engineering teams can really understand what needs to be built.

InfoWorld: Do you get involved with the other top officers of the company in terms of formulating a business strategy?

Tiemann: Absolutely. In fact, that is one of the things that Red Hat got when they bought Cygnus Solutions. Few people realize how small Red Hat was [and] it has grown in terms of head count by more than a factor of 10. Cygnus was the first open-source company founded in 1989. We were 5 years old when Red Hat was founded. So we have been around the block more than a few times on business models and looking at what the operational issues are, what the scalability issues are as you build an open-source company. I bring to the table the knowledge from that experience of helping to formulate the business plans for Red Hat going forward.

InfoWorld: What percentage of your revenue comes from services as opposed to products?

Tiemann: On the Cygnus side, it was about 80 percent services-based. On the Red Hat side, it was completely the opposite; it was almost all products. Bringing the two companies together has actually given us something nice because there are some [end-user] companies out there that want to buy a blend. They want to have a product platform which is standard and acts as a reference platform. Red Hat has done a great job of making Red Hat Linux, the reference platform for Linux. It makes it easy for CIOs and CTOs to just worry about one variable in the Linux space. It is a very comforting thing for them. But on the other hand, they want customization, services, and support. Cygnus has built about 100-plus engineering teams who are able to deliver those kinds of services. So with the merger, people do not have to say, 'I am going to go with' a services-based model or a product-based model. Now they can get the reference platform with services on top of it.

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