Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) is welcoming back a familiar face – at least to veterans of the world’s leading Linux company – to help spearhead its increasing investment in “cloud” computing and related technology.

That “face” is Tim Yeaton, a former marketing executive for the Hatters when they were much smaller and not located in a skyscraper in downtown Raleigh.

On Monday, Red Hat announced that Yeaton had rejoined the company to fill the newly created position of senior vice president, Infrastructure Group. He left his CEO job at Black Duck software in December, and he acknowledges the decision was “the toughest decision of my life.” But the chance to help lead Red Hat in what he calls “the biggest transformation in IT architecture in the past 20 years” convinced him to don a red fedora once again.

A former executive at Dell and EqualLogic, worked at Red Hat earlier in his career as senior vice president for worldwide marketing and general manager of enterprise solutions. He led Black Duck through three acquisitions and helped developed a global organization that now operates in 23 countries.

Our Q&A:

  • Why did you decide to return to Red Hat?

We are on the cusp of the biggest transformation in IT architecture in the past 20 years – the move to cloud-based computing. Open source is at the core of this transition, and consequently the opportunity for Red Hat to set the benchmark for the evolution to cloud – particularly via its open hybrid cloud vision is compelling, customer- and community-driven, and the chance to lead the business Group delivering this for the company is very exciting.

  • Do you have any reservations about leaving a CEO (top gun) position for one in which you don’t call the shots? How will you have to adjust?

I have no reservations about adjusting from CEO to a line of business leader, in fact when I first joined Red Hat in 2005, I was coming off of four-plus years in my first CEO role. My personal approach is collaborative, and I always strive to fine the best ideas wherever they are in an organization.

I think this approach has served me well in both CEO and large company roles. {Red Hat CEO] Jim Whitehurst has institutionalized a similar approach in the culture of Red Hat, so I’m excited to working in his organization and driving such an important agenda for the company and the industry.

  • What changes have you seen at Red Hat as you reviewed the opportunity to return? A great deal has changed at Red Hat since you left. 

The biggest changes are in the sheer size of the organization – around 6,000 associates today, well in excess of $1billion revenues annually – and the breadth of the product lines beyond just Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Red Hat JBoss Middleware.

What hasn’t changed, and is still compelling to me today, is the quality of the people and the open, collaborative culture. The organization is certainly bigger and more complex, but the same fundamental principles, vision and philosophy still drives the company and its associates.

  • Why did you leave Black Duck?

Honestly, leaving Black Duck was the toughest decision of my life.

Over the past five years we’ve build it into one of the top open source enabling companies in the world, with 30% annualized growth and 1200 customers worldwide, and it was honored last year as a top place to work in Massachusetts. The fact that the company is doing so well, and is executing on its well-defined strategic direction, is what allowed me to consider re-joining Red Hat in this role.

  • Red Hat is really focusing on cloud-related services. What opportunities do you see in platform and related offerings? Why is OpenStack so “hot” in this space? And why is Red Hat so committed to OpenStack? 

Cloud adoption is already growing at an accelerated pace – 60% annually by some analyst estimates. There’s been a strong wave of adoption fueled by Amazon AWS, but many large organizations are thinking through their cloud strategies and making conscious choices about what workloads are suitable for public clouds, internal private clouds, virtualized and even dedicated server infrastructure.

The large customers I’ve spoken with anticipate having workloads deployed across all the models, but want flexibility to evolve where and how various workloads run. This is the opportunity uniquely suited to Red Hat – enabling the open hybrid cloud. Red Hat enables a customer to have a certified app that can run seamlessly across or move among any of these models, with mission critical reliability, leveraging the breathtaking pace of innovation coming out of OpenStack and other open source cloud efforts.

  • Red Hat describes the changes announced today as a realignment. What are some of the specifics? Are people being shifted into different roles? Will there be any new hiring (and if so in what areas?) Are any jobs being phased out?

The realignment into the Infrastructure and Applications Platform Groups is exactly that: taking the many individual business units that existed previously and aligning them in this way, to drive a set of comprehensive, core value propositions and solutions for customers as they start or continue the cloud journey. These continue to be investment areas for Red Hat, and you’ll see continued hiring, particularly in product development and customer-facing organizations.

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