As general manager for Red Hat‘s Public Sector, Paul Smith oversees all aspects of sales, business development, marketing, consulting and the channel partners focused on federal, state and local agencies and educational institutions. He recently talked to ExecutiveBiz about his excitement for the company and open source solutions, as well as cloud computing and the professional milestones he achieved in 2010.
ExecutiveBiz: You’ve been with Red Hat since 2004, how has the company grown in those years?
Paul Smith: Exponentially. When I joined, Red Hat was a company of about 600 employees. Today, we are a little bit over 3,800. We’ve added a lot of people in the last six years and are happy about that. In terms of revenue growth, the company is doing extremely well, which is a testimony to the fact that the open-source model works for innovation and the subscription model works for consumption. We are disrupting– and have disrupted–the standard order of the way business is done in the IT industry. We have grown worldwide from less than $200 million annual revenue to $1 billion. Red Hat is clearly the most successful public company in the open-source arena.
ExecutiveBiz: What are some of the products and services you have provided government customers with?
Paul Smith: Today, we are more than just the leading supplier of open source LINUX. We are a multiproduct company with many offerings including a robust and integrated virtualization solution based on KVM, which is now part of the platform. We also provide middleware solutions from the acquisition of JBoss back in 2006 and we are helping our customers achieve overall the success in cloud implementations implementing open standards PaaS. In addition, we have many specialty products that help our DoD and commercial customers manage Disconnected, Intermittent, Limited (DIL) Communications with our open source messaging platform from the open-source project called AMQP (part of our standard platform). Red Hat’s GRID platform is built on the open source project CONDOR that we productize and support for HPC (high performance computing).
In addition to the products we’ve added, we’ve had some other acquisitions, including a services company by the name of Amentra. These guys still maintain their independent brand and act as highly capable engineering arm to help customers build foundations for cloud computing. As an example, we are now engaged in numerous government project assessments regarding migrating legacy applications to private clouds. The FCCI or the Federal Cloud Computer Initiative is a policy direction from the OMB that is driving all agencies to move to cloud architectures. Every major agency now in the government is involved in moving toward cloud computing, and we are a huge part of that.
ExecutiveBiz: Cloud computing seems to be the buzz word these days.
Paul Smith: There is a lot of buzz around cloud and a lot of people have stories around it. But the real things that are important about cloud computing is how you do it. Virtualization alone is not cloud computing as some would have you believe. It is an important piece, however. But there are really only two companies today that can provide a complete stack of operating system, integrated virtualization, management tools and middleware products to make it all happen. Those two companies are Microsoft and Red Hat. Red Hat is unique in offering the Infrastructure component (IaaS) and the Platform Component (PaaS) based on open source and open standards. Why is this important? No vendor lock-in at any layer of the stack. For more on projects, we are involved in dealing with Open APIs for the Cloud platform providers, Google the Delta Cloud project by Apache Software Foundation.
ExecutiveBiz: You sound pretty excited about your work at Red Hat. What is the best advice you can give to a young professional who is looking at a career at a company like Red Hat?
Paul Smith: We’ve made a business out of development model that is totally different from all of the stuff that I did when I was growing up in the industry; working for a variety of companies where of the development happened inside the firewalls. For young professionals: Make sure you’re looking at companies that are into sharing. The government, too, is adopting crowd sourcing techniques to run projects and develop programs. Witness work in the VA on open VistA, forge.mil in the DoD to name a few. President Obama has directed his administration to embrace the concepts of Open Source as articulated in the Open Government Directive. It states that government needs to be collaborative, needs to to participative , and needs to share in a transparent manner. That’s how innovation happens faster and with fewer design defects (bugs in the software world). If you are out there looking for a job right now, make sure you are getting involved with a project or company that believes in these values.
ExecutiveBiz: Summing up last year, what were your own professional milestones?
Paul Smith: I’d say we’ve won the hearts and minds of the public-sector customers in terms of accepting open source as a viable, secure way to transform IT infrastructures. We’ve seen the Open Government Directive, earlier the DoD CIO’s office wrote a memorandum advising the use of open source and clarifying the use of a COTS (Common Off the Shelf software) as applicable to both open source subscriptions and proprietary licenses where life-cycle support was offered. We’ve seen it from a number of other agencies that were heretofore late adopters to open source that are now not only accepting it, but embracing it. The last 18 months or so, we’ve seen a huge sea change in terms of the acceptance. That’s the huge change — that open source has brought to the government; not just in terms of products but in terms of a way to innovate, a way to develop faster with more agility.
ExecutiveBiz: Off the clock, what are some of your hobbies? You mentioned in an earlier interview that you loved to run and surf. Do you still do that?
Paul Smith: Yep. I still run and I surf and snow ski a little bit, but basically I’m a full-time dad who doesn’t play as much golf as he’d like. I still run in about five to eight road races a year; a lot of 5K and 10K and 10 milers. I am enjoying some books now including Without Hesitation, the memoirs of Gen. Hugh Shelton who is the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the current chairman of the board at Red Hat, Inc. On the social scene, I’m a recently retired commodore from a South Jersey yacht club and enjoy boating in general.
ExecutiveBiz: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Paul Smith: I think right now, we’re excited about the future and how we can impact change from the status quo in government. With budget pressures in front of us – governments are highly motivated to change and to move to systems that don’t lock them into proprietary architectures. Red Hat is in a good place to help save the federal government hundreds of millions of dollars in operating expense.