Red Hat is possibly the most successful open source company in the world, and the firm believes that the open source development process makes it best placed to drive enterprise adoption of public cloud computing, ahead of rivals such as Microsoft or VMware.
At a roundtable event in London, Red Hat chief executive Jim Whitehurst outlined the company's approach to cloud computing, and the way IT services are heading in the near future.
Whitehurst identified three basic trends in today's IT: cloud computing; flat budgets; and online services such as those from Google driving expectations for enterprise IT projects.
"For every chief information officer of any major company in the world today Google is your competitor, at least in terms of the expectations your users have of what you can deliver," he said, explaining that tools such as Google Mail provide a better collaboration experience than many enterprise-grade products.
"Expectations have gone through the roof in terms of what people expect IT to be able to deliver, not only the richness of the content and the speed at which they can be delivered, but the cost because Google is free."
Perhaps not surprisingly, Whitehurst sees open source development as the answer to this problem because of its ability to respond rapidly and because open source projects tend to add features via small iterative changes instead of lengthy development cycles.
"We're seeing an explosion in demand for our application infrastructure software, JBoss, JBoss developer studio and all the other components that allow an enterprise to build an application very rapidly and get them running in a production environment," he said. Budgets are also driving organisations to open source, he added.
As for cloud computing, Whitehurst admitted that he initially dismissed it as a fad, but now believes that the economic arguments are compelling for re-centralising IT back to the datacentre.
"Going from two per cent utilisation of a server to 90 per cent has massive benefits, as does keeping data centralised in this world of security and privacy concerns, keeping functionality close-in, and doing away with the sprawl of PCs that costs more in support costs than the hardware does," he explained.
Red Hat's role in developing the cloud is to work with customers to make sure that they have choices at every level of the stack, the firm said, otherwise organisations risk getting locked to a single architecture once more.
"If you can't move your data out from the stack, cloud computing will become the mother of all lock-ins and one of the most expensive things the enterprise ever does," Whitehurst warned.
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