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Business Management

A year into life at Red Hat, FeedHenry boss is hungry for more

When I meet Cathal McGloin in London he tells me it’s the day before the one-year anniversary of Red Hat buying his company, the mobile application platform provider, FeedHenry. So, first question: how has the deal gone?

Nobody ever replies “dismally” to this question, nor “a train wreck” or “a disaster”. But when McGloin says “It’s been phenomenal”, he at least brings with it the buoyancy of Donegal in Ireland where he was raised, even if he now lives half the world away near Boston.

“It was the best fit of all the companies,” he says of the $82m purchase. “We had this platform based around Node.js and it was the starting point of Red Hat doing very interesting things. Not only have we brought the mobile things but we’re sharing information for Platform as a Service projects. All my team is still in place and they all love it, and it’s led to some large deals we could not have competed for. There’s no question about our viability and we’re competing in the ‘A’ leagues with the usual suspects like IBM and SAP. Samsung wouldn’t have partnered with FeedHenry but together we can do mission-critical solutions where we work on the security of the device, integration of business processes and so on.”

Red Hat has become something of a case study for its culture which is the focus of a recent book by CEO Jim Whitehurst. It is often described as unusually democratic and flat, where everybody is given the right to disagree with management.

“The culture is one thing that stands out about Red Hat,”McGloin says. “Of a company of 60 we had about 40 engineers. They value individuals and everybody has a say. Everyone from the newest engineer can say what they want. If you’re an engineer that’s very good - you tend to blossom.”

McGloin also thinks that Red Hat is nicely positioned for today’s zeitgeist.

“Speed to market and being agile is the new norm so you have to be innovating at this kind of speed. Red Hat has all of the parts and RHEL is the thread going through so all these work together.

“What we’re looking forward to is the new generation of PaaS and [Red Hat’s hybrid cloud application platform] OpenShift. As a cloud company we’re now building an open, premium product. Private cloud is so big and OpenShift is becoming so big because [organisations like] a government agency or the military want to be the single tenant running in a private cloud.”

We talk about the news that the world’s biggest IT services firm Accenture is buying a specialist like Cloud Sherpas.

“To me, that’s part of the interplay of all these new things,” he says. “Big Sis are acquiring small dedicated companies because those old days of buying software and services, big-ticket prices and 23 per cent annually on top… those days are gone.”

McGloin acknowledges that FeedHenry has plenty of rivals but says they will need to convince IT buyers they’re going to be around in three or four years. Large rivals like Pivotal have a “hodge-podge” of assets he argues, and notes the recent departure of the highly respected former Microsoft and VMware executive Paul Maritz.

McGloin says FeedHenry and Red Hat have the opportunity to accelerate though because they have scale and opportunities afforded by technology change. He hails one example: a services company that can replace paper processes by providing field staff with a sign-off capability on a Samsung Galaxy smartphone. If staff look after the device they get to keep it after two years.

He’s also enthused by the chance to grow globally as more companies try before they buy, using trial software in the cloud. “Thomas Friedman was right: the world is flat,” he says.

Last question: ‘FeedHenry’, how did that name come about? ‘Feed’ comes from the nature of the RSS/Atom-style technology the company was working on and ‘Henry’ it turns out was in honour of the Kilkenny hurler Henry Shefflin as part of friendly banter between a Kilkenny supporter against fans of rival Waterford where the company has a base. From Ireland to the whole world of opportunity in mobile and PaaS, FeedHenry has come a fair way since.

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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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