Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst weighs in on strategy, Oracle and growth

The open-source vendor's top executive sat down for an interview during the Red Hat Summit in Boston this week

By , IDG News Service |  Software

IDG News Service: Red Hat and other open-source companies like to talk about how much money their customers can save compared to buying products from proprietary vendors like Oracle, IBM and SAP. But how does this notion of saving customers money interact with your responsibility as a public company with delivering growth every quarter?

Whitehurst: It depends on what role you're trying to play. We are in the business of taking share in various established product categories. Yes, we're a fast-growing company, but if you look at how we grow ... the way we do that is by offering better value. By keeping the price low, it allows us to take share faster, which allows us to generate more revenue and grow. So it's very different than if we were in an established category and we have 70 percent share. If I lower the price, then I can't grow as fast.

IDG News Service: Red Hat relies on open-source databases like MySQL for its product lineup, but the company doesn't have its own traditional relational database offering. Why is that?

Whitehurst: It's something we obviously have looked at a number of times, and I don't think there's something necessarily wrong with the core database business. The problem is that selling only on price isn't enough. To go in and say we have a database almost as good as Oracle at a tenth of the price is still a tough sell. The reason Linux did well isn't that Linux is cheaper than UNIX. It's faster. With JBoss, it's not that it's cheaper than [IBM] WebSphere or [Oracle] WebLogic, it also requires a much smaller footprint. Therefore, you can collapse a whole set of computing resources and management around that.

The problem on the database side is Oracle has a really damn good database. It's not that there aren't really good open-source databases out there, but at least in the traditional SQL world, there's no open-source database that has 10 other features that Oracle doesn't have.

Now, on the NoSQL side, I think some of those could be quite interesting. It's something that we look at, I think the guys at 10gen are doing a great job. Some of those could be very, very interesting, but the time's just never been right for us to find the right fit. [Ed: Earlier this month, Red Hat released JBoss Data Grid 6, an in-memory NoSQL data store based on the Infinispan open-source project].

IDG News Service: Still, isn't a lack of your own database sort of a big hole for a PaaS (platform as a service) vendor like Red Hat?

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