Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of WRAL Tech Wire and business editor of

RALEIGH, N.C. – Jim Whitehurst, chief executive officer at Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) threw down a gauntlet at the Open Source Business Conference on Monday when talking about the future of “cloud computing.”

“Are we going to let the same group of vendors who controlled the last generation of computing come in and define the layers of the stack,” Whitehurst asked.

“Or are we going to change to an open model where users are involved, where the contract between vendors and users is fundamentally different and changed?”

Whitehurst is on a roll. He made similar comments at the Red Hat Summit two weeks ago – so to speak.

Toilet paper – “cloud enabled”

“We – IT vendors – are not leading it. This is the first time in IT that we have seen fundamental, massive, user-driven innovation,” Whitehurst said, according to The Register in the U.K.

Standing before a mammoth photo of a toilet paper roll decorated with “Cloud Enabled” label, Whitehurst also warned against the IT industry and executives with enterprise networks from embracing the cloud without doing plenty of homework and being careful.
“We need to get past all of this hype and we need to come back and talk about what we really mean by cloud and lay out a set of principles on which we move forward,” he said.
The cloud business is booming, and Red Hat wants to be a major player. So does every high-tech company around, it seems. And customers are eager to put their networks in the clouds. (Read about IBM’s survey in which CIOs are clamoring to become cloud clients.)

Which fork to take?

As reported by TechNewsWorld, Whitehurst said Monday that following an Open Source model would enable customers to help create the future of the cloud, or shared computing and on-demand capabilities.

“We’re at a fork in the road,” Whitehurst said. “Now is the time that we’re going to choose the dominant model for this next paradigm of computing.”

Unlike Yogi Berra, who just said “take it” at the fork, however, Whitehurst said users and vendors need to make choices. Will they stifle creativity, development and openness by embracing a proprietary solution?

Of course, Whitehurst – long a fan of Linux and Open Source before he became CEO at Red Hat – wants Red Hat Fedoras and Linux Penguins and other Open Source brands to dominate, not a Microsoft.

But Whitehurst also cautioned that web developers and customers must be willing to share ideas and standards.

“If we don’t get collaboration across these clouds, we’ll baffle innovation and the very things that make open source so powerful today will evaporate,” Whitehurst said.

Read the full report here.

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