Having established itself as the leading enterprise Linux vendor, Red Hat is in a pivotal phase of reinventing itself as a broader open-source software provider and a long-term technology leader a la Microsoft and Oracle. It's a tall order, and among other things it will take a business plan that lets the company move smoothly through this make-or-break stage.
Coming up with that internal plan lies on the shoulders of 30-year IT veteran Nick Van Wyk. Van Wyk joined Red Hat last year from EMC, taking a newly created role as vice president of operations to optimise Red Hat's subscription model and create better business processes to support the company's channel.
Red Hat appointed him to a new role as senior director, transformation, in charge of examining the company's internal processes and operations to "reposition all of our systems to support the next stage of our evolution," he said.
That stage includes capitalising on its 2006 purchase of Red Hat plots restructuring as profits rise and the open-source middleware package that comes along with it, as well as growing from a company with annual revenue of about $500m (£240m) to a billion-dollar company.
Red Hat, whose affections toward other vendors can be fickle, is challenged to build out a stronger ecosystem of partners to support not only Red Hat Enterprise Linux OS but also JBoss and any new technologies it brings to the table.
In the current technology business climate, Red Hat is a bit of an anomaly. The company has managed to exist for nearly 10 years with one core competency: a Linux server distribution it supports and provides maintenance for. The company has branched out into other areas of software, such as desktop Linux and virtualisation, but for the most part, the server OS has been its bread and butter.
Recognising it cannot subsist long on this diet in an environment of consolidation and diversification, Red Hat made a calculated risk and purchased JBoss.Van Wyk says, it is now trying to position itself to make the most out of that and the possibility of other new product developments or purchases.
"As we move forward, we will more be described as an open source services and solutions company," he said. "That's an enhanced position for Red Hat."
In its present situation, Red Hat has "a base, a critical mass of applications from which to grow," said George Weiss, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. But investors are more interested in what comes next than in how well Red Hat is currently executing.
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