Szulik replaces Bob Young, a Red Hat founder, who will continue to serve as a board member.
"Matthew's enhanced leadership position as CEO and chairman will enable Red Hat to improve its customer service and product offerings even faster and increase the speed of Linux adoption in the enterprise," Young said in a statement.
Szulik, 45, has made a quick ascent at Red Hat. He started with the company in November 1998 as president and was promoted to CEO a year later.
Szulik faces the challenge of turning Linux, an open-source operating system that is licensed for free, into a profitable business--a task all the more daunting given that it competes with Microsoft's dominant Windows operating system. Szulik is known for his strongly held vision for Linux, sometimes described as "high-tech socialism." He has also given Red Hat some two-dozen ways to make money from Linux, including support services and systems integration.
Red Hat on Thursday also announced that Marye Anne Fox, chancellor of North Carolina State University, has joined the board. Fox, a chemist, serves on the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Science and the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
The addition of Fox to the Raleigh, N.C.-based company's board will "enable Red Hat to treat education as a social responsibility rather than a market," Szulik said in a statement, adding that one of Red Hat's missions is to encourage the use of open-source software as a means of "bringing the benefits of a better education to all people in our society."
Microsoft has also beenon education lately, and both companies have acknowledged the importance of gaining a foothold among developers in academia.