Red Hat CEO turns talent scout

Red Hat chief executive officer Matthew Szulik has said that open-source companies have to recruit the "best minds" to supplant...

Red Hat chief executive officer Matthew Szulik has said that open-source companies have to recruit the "best minds" to supplant an economic model based on proprietary software.

"Our challenge is not to build the infrastructure, but to find the talent to change the world and compete against the best in the world," he said.

Red Hat will focus its investment in parts of the country, such as Massachusetts and Research Triangle Park in North Carolina,  where hi-tech companies have easy access to talent from local universities and can partner with higher education and state government.

Szulik said Red Hat is hiring and will increase the number of employees at its local engineering and research and development centre.

While optimistic about the future of open-source software, Szulik also acknowledged that the company will face stiff competition from competitors, including Novell, which purchased rival SuSE Linux last year.

"They're a new competitor, absolutely," Szulik said about the combined companies, adding that competition was good for the Linux community and for customers. However, he cast doubt on Novell's ability to make the open-source model profitable in the long term.

"The issue is one of different economic models. ... With Red Hat you have a company that has been working in the open-source world for 11 years and providing service to our customers. Compare that to a company that has been selling proprietary software for 20 years, but is now calling itself an open source company. The question is, 'Can they transfer to that model?'."

Red Hat's CEO put a similarly sunny face on lawsuit brought by The SCO Group, saying that it benefited Linux customers, who now enjoy legal indemnity for use of Linux from Red Hat, Novell and others that was not available before the suit.

Red Hat is waiting for SCO to release copies of source code to support its copyright assertions before it takes a stand on the case. However, the suit is draining financial resources from Red Hat that could be spent funding innovation and growth.

Szulik predicted the growth of an open-source architecture for enterprises, as customers increasingly deploy Linux on hardware based on Intel technology, and put pressure on Linux suppliers to develop middleware and virtualisation technologies, simplify system management and stay strong on security.

Red Hat will also submit technology it acquired with its purchase of storage company Sistina Software to the open-source community, he said.

Red Hat's recently announced partnership with embedded software maker Wind River Systems to make a Linux-based operating system for embedded systems will extend the company's reach into markets for embedded software such as aerospace and automotives.

However, Szulik doubted that Linux would replace Windows on the desktop in the near future. He spoke of a long hard battle to replace "12 years worth of Windows, Visual Basic, Visual Studio ... and Exchange 5.0" in companies with Linux-based systems.

In the home, Red Hat and others also have to pursue a long-term strategy by working with makers of peripheral devices such as Adaptec to make General Public Licence versions of drivers that will make Linux more user friendly for consumers, he said. 

Paul Roberts writes for IDG News Service

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