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OSBC Red Hat will help others build clouds, but is unlikely to following operating-system rival Microsoft by becoming a cloud service provider itself.

Chief executive Jim Whitehurst said Wednesday that Red Hat can best serve its customers by delivering technologies that are certified to run on a "myriad of different clouds" and by being "neutral and ubiquitous".

"I would never say never, but the problem of becoming a cloud provider makes it difficult for us to do what we do best, which is create commonality across a diverse set of customer architectures," Whitehurst told press and bloggers at the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) in San Francisco.

"We do better for our customers by saying: 'Write this to Red Hat and you will be able to use it on various different clouds', rather than say: 'Come run it on our cloud' because if so you will lose the concept of running it on multiple different clouds."

Whitehurst was speaking the day after his company announced that IBM will use Red Hat's Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) as the virtualization technology for its CloudBurst for application developers. RHEV uses the open-source KVM while Red Hat already makes its Linux available, along with its JBoss application server, on Amazon's cloud service.

The policy of being a provider of technologies for clouds instead of an actual service provider is one being followed by database giant Oracle, the company that's been trying steal Red Hat's Linux business with its own Enterprise Linux and Unbreakable Linux support.

On the other end of the scale, Microsoft has decided to become a cloud service player in addition to selling products such as Windows and software servers and tools to those building clouds. Microsoft has rolled out US and international data centers powered by Windows Server 2008, a customized version of its Hyper-V virtualization technology, and a Fabric Controller to manage resources and balance loads for users of its Azure cloud-based compute and storage.

Red Hat's Linux is the number-one Linux operating-system competitor to Windows on the server, with many customers running a 50:50 split of Windows and Linux in their data centers. RHEL is the market-share leader when it comes to Linux server distros.

Whitehurst, meanwhile, also appeared to rule out a move by his company to become a database company. Databases do too many different jobs, and picking a single database could potentially exclude a number of Red Hat Linux customers, Whitehurst said.

Red Hat's core business is its Linux distribution, but in 2006 it branched into middleware with the $350m purchase of application server provider JBoss. That opened the door for Red Hat to join the ranks of Oracle and Microsoft as platform providers with their own operating systems and accompanying middleware and database stacks.

The question has been that after the application server, where would Red Hat move next?

"A lot of customers say it would be great to have the Red Hat endorsement of an open source database, so pick one, endorse it, buy it, own it," Whitehurst said. The problem, though, is there's no one database that does everything well.

"You have to sell a database that's not right for customers in all circumstances... If we pick one database, which one do you pick? You have to sell a database that's not right for certain customers in certain circumstances, because of the nature of data and what you are using a database for.

"I don't want to say never, but our model and our value proposition work so much better where there should be a clear reference standard - so the hypervisor, application server, or operating system."

Whitehurst also dismissed the idea that customers could get everything they want from a single vendor, as Oracle has been pushing through its purchase of BEA Systems and Sun Microsystems - companies that had their own middleware including application servers.

In the wake of closing its Sun deal, Oracle has claimed it can integrate its hardware and software products to remove potential problems and take the industry back to a golden age of computing in the 1960s of interoperability, reliability, and accountability.

Red Hat's CEO claimed Oracle has given a "double boost" to his JBoss business as the giant purchased Sun's Java and GlassFish operations, coming in the wake of its purchase of BEA's WebLogic application server. Customers are picking JBoss for new projects, he said. ®

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