Red Hat Professional Services: The RH Factor

By Mel Duvall  |  Posted 2003-02-13

When you're a company that sells open-source code, it can be difficult to differentiate yourself from competitors. Recognizing this challenge, Red Hat launched its own professional services organization about a year-and-a-half ago to improve its value proposition.

Today, Red Hat's professional services organization is on track to bring in about $9 million in annual revenue. The decade-old company also provides its Red Hat Network service, which offers a way to automatically deliver software updates and to manage Red Hat Linux servers.

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Sitel Corp., a provider of multichannel customer contact centers, began switching its systems over from IBM Unix to Red Hat's Linux in July 2002. Of the company's 170 servers, 47 now run Linux. Scott Clark, Sitel's information technology director, says the company contracted with Red Hat's consulting services to assist with the initial changeover and the firm is now brought in about one week every three months. Overall, he's been pleased. "There were some early learning curves we had to get over with Red Hat, but it's been a very good relationship," he says.

Cole Vision, a vision-care franchiser, began switching systems over to Linux at its 1,500 stores in March 2001. It brought in Red Hat's professional services to help with the migration and to get its own I.T. staff up to speed on Linux.

Project manager Glenn Albrecht says Red Hat's team created a CD-based install and conversion process, helping to simplify and speed the change-over. The Linux software worked right on the first install.

One challenge for Red Hat: Many companies adopting Linux already have large, experienced I.T. teams. That was the case at Incyte Genomics, a biotech company. The company now runs one of the world's largest clusters of Linux boxes—some 3,000 machines on Red Hat's brand of Linux. Stuart Jackson, director of bioinformatics, did not need to contract Red Hat's professional service despite the size of the project because he had the expertise in-house.

Additional knowledge on supporting large clusters would have been welcome. "There are some deep configuration issues that occur when you get into building clusters of this size," says Jackson.

Reference Checks

Cole Vision
Glenn Albrecht
Project Manager
(330) 486-3000
Project: Began migrating over to Red Hat Linux in March 2001. Used Red Hat's professional services for two months to train in-house staff.

Creighton University
Terry Begley
Information Technology Coordinator
(402) 280-2619
Project: The College of Business Administration has two servers running Red Hat Linux, and uses the Red Hat Network service for software updates and security notifications.

Incyte Genomics
Stuart Jackson
Director, Bioinformatics
(650) 855-0555
Project: Palo Alto, Calif.-based research company runs one of the world's largest commercial scientific Linux operations, with about 3,000 boxes on Red Hat Linux.

Jim Henson's Creature Shop
Jeff Forbes
Supervisor, Computer and Electronics
(818) 953-3030
Project: Visual-effects studio has been using Red Hat Linux as an operating system for about four years.

Kenwood USA
Gary Calvin
Manager, Systems Administration
(310) 205-1500
Project: Began using Red Hat Linux in 1997, and added it to company's main line of business beginning in 1998. Subscribes to Red Hat Network.

Scott Clark
Information Technology Director
(402) 963-6810
Project: Customer contact center provider began moving systems to Red Hat Linux in July 2002. Brought in Red Hat's professional services to assist in migration and now uses the services organization on a scheduled basis.

Executives listed here are all customers of Red Hat. Their willingness to talk has been confirmed by Baseline.

Company Profile

Red Hat Professional Services
1801 Varsity Drive
Raleigh, NC 27606
(919) 754-3700

EMPLOYEES: 45 in professional services

Matthew J. Szulik
Chairman, CEO, President
Helped launch Interleaf and MapInfo before joining Red Hat founder Bob Young in the belief that open source software and a great brand could change the balance of power.

Anthony Moretto
VP, Global Services
Wharton grad spent six years steering Sybase's professional services division, and managed Oracle's professional services for the federal sectors.

Michael Tiemann
Chief Technology Officer
An open source software pioneer, Tiemann has served as Red Hat CTO since January 2000. Was cofounder of Cygnus Solutions where he also served as president.

Products & Services
Core offering is its own version of Linux; it takes the open source Linux kernel, compiles it, tests it for performance and reliability and adds its own features. Offers software update and management service called Red Hat Network, and launched professional services organization in 2001.