Red Hat managing director, Max McLaren, talks to ANDREW HENDRY about the year that was and what lies ahead for the software vendor in 2009.
Red Hat recently expanded its JBoss certified ISV program, what does this mean?
Max McLaren (MM): Effectively we’ve separated our ISV program from our traditional Red Hat ISV program, into a RHEL [Red Hat Enterprise Linux] platform ISV program and a JBoss certified ISV program. The importance of that is if you are running an application server and you’ve got a supported, updated and certified app server from JBoss, then you are getting the updates and getting the patches. The ISV can sleep easy at night knowing their customers are on the latest technology, and their customers can sleep easy knowing they have bought into a certified and supported application.
Are you planning other changes to Red Hat’s partner program or certifications?
MM: Red Hat is continuing to mature and add value to our partner program. What is interesting is the demand for open source. Red Hat and JBoss in particular is growing – we’re beginning to see organisations that perhaps haven’t had a specific focus on open source play more and more of a role there.
Red Hat CEO, Jim Whitehurst, predicted open source would emerge stronger from the financial slump. How is the economic situation affecting Red Hat?
MM: We’re in a quiet time. I don’t anticipate any dramatic change in our business going forward. I think we’ll still see the levels of growth we’ve seen in the past. Organisations are looking to save money, so the value of open source becomes a short-term opportunity for them. And we’re pretty confident that if organisations leverage us in the short term, they will see long-term opportunity in terms of increased software savings, functionality and benefits. I think it’s still pretty early into the downturn – sure, we’ve seen some organisations slow down slightly in terms of the decision making process, but that hasn’t had a material effect on our business.
How do you see the virtualisation space changing as more players get into the market? What is Red Hat doing to keep an edge over its competitors?
MM: I think we’re seeing maturity of the market in terms of understanding that there is an alternative to the proprietary VMware platform, which has dominated the virtualisation market. Our offerings have always been very competitive with regards to customers evaluating the value of para-virtualisation relative to full virtualisation in terms of performance. We bought Qumranet recently, the original developer of the Kernel Virtual Management (KVM) environment that is part of the Linux kernel, so you’ve got the full machine compatible virtualisation it provides. With oVirt – an open project designed to provide virtualisation in an open management environment as opposed to a proprietary environment that something like VirtualCenter delivers with VMware – we think that will become more attractive. A number of customers are leveraging the fact that for no additional cost from Red Hat, you can get virtualisation. For a partner, that is important because often they will need services associated with that so there is more opportunity to leverage available dollars from a customer looking for virtualisation as opposed to it all being soaked up by VMware’s licensing.
Whitehurst said the next step for Red Hat’s business model is to do an even better job at making your software easier to consume for less sophisticated customers. How can partners help bring RHEL to a wider audience?
MM: It’s the traditional value proposition of more feet on the street. We’re a very small organisation in terms of people worldwide, so we can never effectively cover the market as well as we’d like. Partners help us do that. The value proposition for partners is obviously that – and this goes back to 101 in terms of why Oracle, Dell and Intel got into promoting Red Hat and Linux as a value proposition a long time ago – a customer will always have a specific amount of money to spend on a project and that is even less today than it was a couple of years ago. If you can help that customer stretch the upfront procurement costs, then there is more money available to do the exciting stuff of developing and implementing solutions more quickly and effectively for customers.