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

RALEIGH, N.C. – Jim Whitehurst doesn’t forget his roots – or at least those on which his successful career is based.

The chief executive officer at Red Hat (NYSE: RHT), was a huge fan and user of Linux as an executive at Delta Airlines long before he was recruited to become the top gun of the world’s top Linux software developer and services provider in December 2007. And as Red Hat revised its financial forecast upward on Wednesday to say it expected to top $1 billion in revenues for the first time he thanked the people who made Linux and open source possible.

“On a final note, last month, Linux celebrated its 20th anniversary, and I want to recognize the contribution of Linus Torvalds, Richard Stallman and the other early trailblazers of open source,” Whitehurst said.

“Without open source and the collaborative development model, many of the key technologies that make our lives more productive and interesting would not exist. This year, Red Hat will be the first open source company to surpass $1 billion in revenue.”

Torvalds is the creator of Linux, and Whitehurst made certain to meet Torvalds for the first time at that Linux event. (Read more here.)

Stallman founded the Free Software Foundation and the free software license known as GNU General Public License.

Whitehurst also told analysts during the call that he sees better days coming for Red Hat and open source in general. SeekingAlpha provided the transcript.

“With cloud computing still in its early stages and new disruptive shifts in data center architecture, we believe that the open source movement and Red Hat are well-positioned for future growth,” he said.

Corporate executives often use opening statements during earnings calls to talk about the state of the business in which they compete, and Whitehurst talked at length about how open source is being embraced worldwide – especially by governments wanting to drive down costs while improving efficiency.

“From a demand perspective, it is clear from our results that there’s a fundamental shift happening in the way IT is being delivered,” Whitehurst said. “Recently, the former U.S. [chief information officer], Vivek Kundra, wrote an article that demonstrates this need for change. His article spells out the issues government agencies face when purchasing, deploying and maintaining inefficient software and hardware.

“To combat these issues, government agencies are now shifting away from the older model of customized, deeply integrated IT purchases, which often came with heavy maintenance fees and the need for specialized IT staff and expensive customization. Rather, they choose a new model that relies on modularity, reuse, flexibility and the interoperability of systems that they control and are not locked into.”

Whitehurst then hade sure to put in a plug for Red Hat.

“Open source is in the sweet spot and the U.S. government’s IT reform effort and cloud-first policy are examples. Open source and Red Hat can enable that change.”

He then pointed out what Red Hat’s own field work is telling the company about potential growth.

“It is not just the U.S. government that’s embracing open source solutions. We’re seeing governments around the world choosing open source to solve the issues associated with traditional IT deployments.

“Our research indicates that more than 40 countries have adopted policies that promote a fair playing field for open source or emphasize technology neutrality for open source when compared to proprietary software, notably in the U.K., India, Brazil and Australia. This type of validation enables Red Hat to win and strengthen relationships with a government stamp of approval.”

For more from Whitehurst, read the full transcript here.

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