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March 30, 2011

Red Hat edges towards BI acquisition

Firm looks to ramp M&As as it nears $1bn revenue mark

By Jason Stamper

Jim Whitehurst Red Hat

Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of Red Hat

Open source operating system and middleware firm Red Hat may be about to snap up a business intelligence company, CBR has learned.

The news was confirmed in a CBR interview with CEO Jim Whitehurst here yesterday. Asked whether he agrees that business intelligence looks like a bit of a gap in the firm’s portfolio, Whitehurst said: "I think gap might be a strong word. When I think of gap I think of a hole with a piece missing. I think BI is a logical extension from a middleware portfolio."

"We made an investment in [open source BI firm] Jaspersoft so we’re good partners with those people," Whitehurst added, "so at some point in the future having a BI offering could be a nice way to augment what we have."

Listen to the entire podcast with Jim Whitehurst in which he talks about possible acquisitions, the firm’s cloud strategy and more here.

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Indeed with its existing partnership and open source credentials, Jaspersoft would be the most obvious candidate if Red Hat were to buy its way into the BI space.

On the other hand, with over $1bn in cash and investments in the bank and a market cap of over $9bn, none of the open source BI firms would be beyond reach. Those include Actuate, Pentaho, Talend (data integration and quality) and of course Jaspersoft, but Red Hat could consider buying a proprietary BI firm and open sourcing some or all of its technology.

Whitehurst added: "Certainly it’s something that I think our core customer set uses and likes and is interested in, so I think that’s an opportunity for us in the future."

Pressed as to whether a BI acquisition is at the top of his wish-list, Whitehurst said, "In the middleware space BI is definitely high on the list."

If it is such an obvious complement to the firm’s existing portfolio, why wait? "We still haven’t reached the full potential of our core businesses," Whitehurst said, "and so this is always the judgement of being a CEO is: do you feel like you have enough momentum behind what you’re doing that you can afford to add more to it? And when I say afford I don’t mean in terms of dollars, I mean in terms of management time and attention, and those are just trade-offs that we have to make every day."

Listen to the entire Jim Whitehurst podcast here.

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