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Personnel file - November 2008: Internet Technology / Electronics

James Whitehurst
CEO, Red Hat Inc.

In January, James Whitehurst became president and CEO of Raleigh-based Red Hat Inc. The 41-year-old came to the software company, which sells and services the Linux open-source computer-operating system, from Delta Air Lines Inc., where he was chief operating officer and had worked on, among other projects, development of the discount travel Web site Orbitz. At Red Hat, Whitehurst, a native of Atlanta and 1989 graduate of Rice University, will be part of a collaboration between the company and IBM to develop a personal computer that doesn’t rely on Microsoft software. Here, he discusses how his experience will shape his work at Red Hat, as well as what the project with IBM could mean for consumers.

At Delta, you helped develop Orbitz. How has that project helped your work at Red Hat? Managing a large organization through a transformation, in general, helped me develop skills that I’m using today. I also had a multi- hundred-million-dollar Internet technology budget at Delta, so I know what it’s like to be a con- sumer of IT.

Does your age bring any advantages or disadvantages to your work at Red Hat? It was a bigger deal at Delta. Red Hat is such a young company in such a young industry, that I almost feel like an old guy. This is certainly the first company I’ve worked for where I am above the average employee age.

What can come from the collaboration with IBM? We believe that open source will continue to take share away from proprietary alternatives, because it is a fundamentally superior development model. Open source develops better software faster and at a lower cost. Over time, this will pervade most areas of software.