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Open source is an operations business: Red Hat's CEO switch

Second thoughts on Matthew Szulik's switch.

I was talking with a friend this morning who used to work at JBoss. He made an interesting point: Rob Bearden, the COO at JBoss, was perhaps the biggest reason for JBoss' success. Not because he was out proclaiming freedom to the world: that was Marc Fleury's strength and he did it extremely well, bringing visibility and downloads to JBoss. Nor because he was a Bob Bickel figure, thinking up the strategies that would take the company forward.

No, Rob Bearden's strength was in demanding that the trains run on time. Rob set up the sales processes (including JBoss' religious adoption of marketing automation software), set the quotas, etc. He was the machine behind the machine. Every open-source company is an online business that must outperform the rest of the industry's 20th Century business practices to thrive. Rob Bearden did that for JBoss.

Matthew Szulik is resigning as Red Hat's CEO to take care of his family, which is the right thing to do. But perhaps - perhaps - bringing in an operations-minded CEO to replace him is not a bad idea. I say "perhaps" because I thought Matthew did a great job of driving execution at Red Hat. Perhaps the board saw room for further improvement. Perhaps Jim Whitehurst is the right person to build an online marketing and lead-generation machine for Red Hat.

Regardless, the deed is done. I'm looking forward to talking with Mr. Whitehurst, the new CEO, and hope he can fill the big shoes left for him. No one can replace Matthew Szulik, but perhaps Mr. Whitehurst can complement the legacy Matthew leaves behind.

While he's still in his current role, however, I sure would appreciate a change in Delta's policy on international upgrades.... :-)