Red Hat: We Need To Get Beyond Techies

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The vendor is taking steps to move up the enterprise food chain and persuade executives of the value of its open source stack

Red Hat late yesterday said it was aiming to gain a foothold in enterprises beyond its traditional developer stronghold.

This was the stated goal of its middleware arm, JBoss particularly, as its chief technology officer Mark Little admitted future growth lay in selling to less technical IT people and persuading them of the value of open source-developed systems.

“Over the coming year you will see a growing emphasis on administrators and day-to-day developers who expect a lot more straight out of the box, as opposed to really ‘techie’ developers that are happy hacking XML,” said Little.

He added that this strategy had developed out of the growing maturity of the Linux operating system (OS) and the work both Red Hat and JBoss had undertaken to develop a full portfolio of products, which culminated in this week’s releases of the JBoss Enterprise Application Platform 5.0 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4.

But the theme of moving up the enterprise IT food chain was not limited to JBoss, as Tony Roby, executive director of the Accenture Open Source Innovation Centre said: “Open source is still very under-penetrated in the space where we work.”

In working with 96 out of the Fortune 100 global firms, Roby said it was only last year that the systems integrator felt the need to establish its open source innovation centre with the help of Red Hat because of growing large-enterprise interest and demand.

“Historically there’s been no one-stop shop for open source,” he added, “and large companies like to have one throat to choke.” But he said that was changing in line with the maturity of Red Hat’s developing infrastructure stack and the need for more cost-effective and flexible, rapid deployment projects in the face of the global recession.

“Demand is growing noticeably,” Roby said. “And providers such as Red Hat and its partners are being seen as enterprise-ready because of the support, training and services that are packaged with their solutions.”

Laurent Lachal, open source research director for Ovum agreed that Red Hat had gone a log way to break down preconceptions about open source software versus commercial alternatives. But he added: “They must do better at articulating this to the senior executives. Where Microsoft has a very much, top-down approach to selling its products, Red Hat has always been more bottom-up.”

This was a criticism Jim Whitehurst, Red Hat chief executive was willing to accept when questioned by eWEEK Europe.

“Some of that is fair,” he said. “Red Hat has historically done extremely well, not just with technical people, but with companies that are very sophisticated technologically, such as financial services or trading platforms like the New York Stock Exchange, because of the quality of our technology.

“As a next step, we now need to communicate that message more broadly to the Fortune 1000 in two parts: the power of open source and the value of paid open source; and the fact that the use of better technology leads to better business outcomes.”