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. – You’ve come a long way, Red Hat.

Maybe they will break out trademark red fedoras along with tuxes at its global headquarters in Raleigh to celebrate the moment.

After all, penguins are the mascots of Linux.

And if there is a day the Hatters deserve to be decked out for a party, it’s reaching this benchmark.

The world’s top Linux software developer and services provider is expected to report $1 billion in annual revenues for the first time when it announces earnings after the markets close.

If so, Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) will become the first open-source software firm to reach that lofty revenue goal.

Launched 17 years ago by Bob Young (now chief executive officer and chairman of on-demand publisher Lulu in Raleigh) and several other early fans of Linux software, the company has grown into a global enterprise with its software running at the core of many titans on Wall Street and other financial exchanges.

Seen from the start as an alternative to the Borg world of Microsoft and proprietary software, Linux (created by Linus Torvalds) has emerged over time as a sophisticated ecosystem of extremely reliable functionality. Red Hat not only pushes the envelope in making Linux the choice on Wall Street for processing millions of transactions a second but backs it up with support on a subscription basis.

That’s where the Hatters make their money.

Of course, Red Hat offers other services with JBoss and other tools so the company is far from a one-trick pony.

Then there is the “cloud.”

Red Hat’s Linux and its open source – thus open for collaboration and improvement – is rapidly making it a choice for enterprises who want to move their networks and data into the cloud environment.

Young no longer is actively involved in Red Hat. Neither is Matthew Szulik, the former chairman and CEO who succeeded Young and is now retired, caring for his ailing father.

Jim Whitehurst, recruited in part by Suzlik, now runs the company. And like the men before him he has guided the Hatters on a steady path to growth.

Soon, Red Hat will settle into a new headquarters in downtown Raleigh – a 17-story skyscraper that will be a far cry from Red Hat’s humble beginnings in the northeast long ago and then more posh offices in RTP before moving to the Centennial Campus at N.C. State.

As the move downtown will show, the sky apparently is the limit for Red Hat.

So here’s a tip of the hat from The Skinny to all the Hatters – past, present and future.

Congratulations.

 [RED HAT ARCHIVE: Check out years of Red Hat stories as reported in WRAL Tech Wire by clicking here.]