Microsoft and its proprietary way of doing business is as different from open-source Red Hat as night is from day, but guess who Red Hat has hired to lead its “cloud computing” and virtualization efforts?

A Microsoft executive.

On Tuesday, Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) said it hired Radesh Balakrishnan as “new head of its virtualization technologies and solutions.”

The market for cloud-related services is exploding. Research firm IDC says cloud revenues exceeded $21.5 billion in 2010 and will reach nearly $73 billion by 2015. That’s better than 27 percent growth per year.

Balakrishnan replaces Scott Crenshaw, who bolted from Red Hat last September to join Acronis, a company led by former top Red Hat sales executive Alex Pinchev.

Red Hat recently spent $104 million to acquire cloud technology firm ManageIQ, reflective of Chief Executive Officer Jim Whitehurst’s commitment to the business opportunity. 

While some analysts have recently expressed concerns about Red Hat’s growing commitment to non-Linux specific offerings such as cloud and virtualization, the hiring of Balakrishnan shows the Hatters are plowing straight ahead.

Veteran reporter Larry Dignan at ZDnet likes the hire.

“Balakrishnan’s previous history highlights Red Hat’s thinking with its virtualization technology,” Dignan wrote. “Simply put, Balakrishnan has the emerging markets chops that’ll help Red Hat.”

At Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), Balakrishnan was a senior director for Microsoft’s own cloud computing efforts in the Asia-Pacific region called Windows Azure.

For the world”s top Linux developer and services provider, Balakrishnan will serve as the “global leader.”

Red Hat is pushing cloud efforts for OpenStack-based and Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization solutions. 

“Radhesh and his team will continue to drive open virtualization forward through our Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization and Red Hat OpenStack technologies and solutions – both of which are central to Red Hat’s open hybrid approach to the cloud,” said Paul Cormier, president for Products and Technologiesat Red Hat. “We welcome Radhesh to the Red Hat team.”

In a statement, Balakrishnan noted that “Red Hat’s leadership in open source, KVM and OpenStack are assets key to delivering cost-effective virtualization and IaaS [infrastructure as a service] solutions to enterprise customers as well as cloud service providers. I am excited to join Red Hat to lead the efforts to help deliver on its promise of open hybrid cloud.”

Through its support of OpenStack and Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, Red Hat is encouraging open-source solutions.

“Under Balakrishnan’s leadership, Red Hat plans to expand its Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization offerings as well as deliver enterprise-class Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) solutions powered by OpenStack,” Red Hat said in the announcement. 

[RED HAT ARCHIVE: Check out more than a decade of Red Hat stories as reported in WRAL Tech Wire.]