‘Enterprise customers are now more willing to implement open source’

Adith Charlie Mumbai | Updated on January 24, 2018 Published on February 01, 2015

Jim Whitehurst

Infrastructure creation driving Red Hat to India, says chief of the Linux-distributor

Jim Whitehurst expects India to play a larger role in NYSE-listed Red Hat’s global strategy, thanks to the rapid pace of infrastructure creation.

“When a new system’s put into place, it’s increasingly likely that it may be built on open source. We like places where there is a lot of infrastructure going in,” Whitehurst, President and Chief Executive Officer, Red Hat, said. Red Hat is the world’s largest commercial distributor of the open source-based Linux operating system. Open source denotes software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified. In an interaction with BusinessLine, Whitehurst throws light on the opportunities in the Indian marketplace for open source. He also explains why the company is keen to increasingly move more support functions to India. Excerpts:

How important is India in Red Hat’s overall strategy?

India plays four roles for us. We have development centres in Pune and Bengaluru. We have global support centres here to support our global operations.

Red Hat has also moved web shared services – finance, payroll, and many back office functions to India. Obviously, India is a large and rapidly growing IT market.

It’s one of those markets that are technically sophisticated but not one that has massive amounts of infrastructure. A lot of new infrastructure’s being built.

Open source and Red Hat in particular does really well with that new workload, so when a new system’s going into place, it’s increasingly likely that it may be built on open source.

What’s the game plan for India going forward?

India is in the middle of the pack – behind the US and Western Europe – there are larger opportunities there.

Over the last five years we have seen an increase in business. The strategy for India is that this is a great place to hire developers to develop products as well as look at language capabilities for doing support around the world.

We are also looking at adding more back office support functions here (Pune) to become our shared services center.

In 2011, Red Hat acquired Bangalore-based cloud computing start-up Gluster and brought a lot of Indian engineers on board. Can we expect more M&A deals in India?

There are certainly opportunities and Naren Gupta, a venture capital investor at Nexus Ventures, has been great in finding us assets here. In 2014, Red Hat has made a few more acquisitions – Inktank, eNovance, and most recently, FeedHenry.

Have you seen a tangible shift in terms of adoption of open source?

Definitely. In the last couple of years we have started seeing enterprise customers being more willing to implement open source, thus forming a great base for early adopters. Then, we’ve always had TCS’ and Wipro’s interest. But more recently, bigger traditional companies have started to adopt it too, which is great. The adoption curve starts off with early adopters and then the early majority who say “okay, it must be safe enough”, which is where we are at now. We met 25 customers recently, but two years ago it would have been much harder.

Have security vulnerabilities such as Heartbleed or Shellshock had a negative effect on the adoption of Open Source?

Open source has a reputation of being safer and secure. There are companies that still don’t know that they have vulnerabilities because security issues happen daily with their products.

I would say that open source is better than any proprietary vendor. When Heartbleed happened, everybody knew and the resolution was instant. At Red Hat specifically we have a security response team to deal with such issues.

Published on February 01, 2015
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