Open source awareness growing, but misconceptions persist

Strengthening core businesses in financial, telecommunications and public sectors--all of which still have room to grow--key to Red Hat's growth strategy in 2012, company exec shares.

SINGAPORE--Its core business products such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) operating system and JBoss middleware remain key components of Red Hat's growth strategy, as the open source vendor looks to strengthen its presence in Asia-Pacific, particularly Southeast Asia, even as it makes "exploratory moves into cloud".

Damien Wong, general manager at Red Hat Asean, told ZDNet Asia on the sidelines of a media briefing held here Tuesday, that there was still plenty of room for growth in industry verticals such as financial services, telecommunications and the public sector, in which the company was already heavily engaged. Wong joined Red Hat on Nov. 1, moving from Hewlett-Packard at which he was the Southeast Asia general manager of software.

He explained that within each of the verticals, there were "varying levels of awareness and acceptance" of open source software (OSS). Singapore's public sector is one example. The Ministry of Defense here has "strong awareness" and adoption OSS, but other public-sector organizations still held misperceptions about open source which he found "surprising", considering Singaporean entities were usually forward-thinking in terms of IT awareness.

Asked to elaborate on these misperceptions, Wong noted that some CIOs in these organizations are still not convinced Linux is ready for enterprise use.

"This is because they are exposed to community versions of open source such as Fedora, for example, when they should be looking at our enterprise-grade RHEL offering," he said.

Wong's views echoed what Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst said in a June interview with ZDNet Asia. Whitehurst had pointed out that companies here were asking whether RHEL is able to run mission-critical applications, and noted that the region's developing markets were generally behind in understanding and utilizing open source products.

Gunning for cloud share
Elaborating on Red Hat's cloud strategy for 2012, Wong said the open source vendor will focus on a combination of both infrastructure-based and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings via its OpenShift platform.

He acknowledged it was still early days for Red Hat in the PaaS space and it had little information on how receptive developers and companies were of OpenShift. That said, he added that the "market is keen to see what Red Hat has to offer".

Asked if the company will to looking to attract more developers onto its cloud platform, Wong said there is currently a large base of Linux developers and it is "logical" for many of them to want to get onboard.

Research firm Gartner in October predicted that PaaS would become a critical cloud battleground for cloud vendors in the near future as worldwide revenue for the market was expected to reach US$1.8 billion in 2015.

However, analysts ZDNet Asia spoke to previously pointed out that the PaaS market's uneven maturity level made it difficult for companies and independent software vendors to focus their efforts on a specific platform.