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Ex-Microsoft man takes up arms for Red Hat's open-cloud crusade

Because enterprise cloud doesn't just happen

Photo of Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst at Red Hat Summit 2014

“We want to be the undisputed leader in enterprise cloud,” Red Hat’s chief executive Jim Whitehurst said recently.

It’s a big target to set yourself. There’s plenty of competition from incumbents such as Microsoft (now changing its game), and new entrants such as Amazon (breaking down the doors).

One thing both have to help them is an ecosystem. Microsoft spent decades building a world of partners and developers around Windows, that it now hopes to turn into cloud developers. Nobody has mobilised devs on quite the same scale as Microsoft in personal computing.

Amazon has a strong brand and a foot in the door with AWS: it started as a developer play but has turned into a CIO-level decision.

So where does Red Hat turn? Microsoft – that’s where.

Red Hat in September hired Harry Mower as senior director, developer programs and evangelism.

Mower has been an evangelist and outreach manager for Microsoft since 2006, on media, telecoms and entertainment. His job, to expand uptake and adoption of Microsoft technologies.

You could argue that’s a sales person’s responsibility, but evangelists don’t dirty their hands with money. They’re deployed to exercise use of soft power – persuasion and diplomacy — to win hearts and minds.

Mower at Red Hat will develop messages and strategies around groups of products. He will work with the company's product teams, determining strategies, and leading a team creating and delivering messages.

Moreover, Red Hat isn’t just hiring Mower – it’s created a new position for him. So why an ex-evangelist from the proprietary side of the tracks, and why now?

“Red Hat has reached a level growing from just Linux then adding JBoss middleware to 12 products and now it’s entering storage, virtualisation software, and cloud technology with OpenShift and OpenStack," Craig Muzilla, senior vice president, application platforms business, told The Reg during a recent interview.

“Now we have become a true enterprise infrastructure provider, rather than a point product, it’s important to look at developers holistically and develop an affinity with developers not just as developers of products for Red Hat.”

Clouds and mobiles

Mower’s charter is to give Red Hat a consistent story for developers, and the mix recently became richer with the addition of mobile elements, following the company's purchase of FeedHenry, a mobile application platform provider, and Inktank Storage, a sponsor of the Ceph distributed file system.

Red Hat also recently announced Project Atomic with Google to make Linux containers in Docker scale.

Cloud and mobile will be big parts of Mower’s charter, Muzilla said. Red Hat’s best known for Linux, and Linux makes up 85 per cent of revenue – this despite buying a middleware business with JBoss. Cloud is growing faster than Linux, but the question is how does Red Hat sustain growth and ensure cloud and mobile become its second and third engines.

Underpinning all the above is OpenStack — Red Hat’s strategic bet. OpenStack is gift to Linux firms who want their horse in the race currently dominated by proprietary elastic data and compute platforms, such as AWS.

Red Hat has deals with Dell and Cisco: Dell is selling Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform (RHEL with OpenStack); and, announced in September, it has a joint development of cloud “solutions” with Cisco.

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