Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst says he has no plans to buy a database company to counter Oracle's agreement to acquire Sun Microsystems, and plans to instead be the "Switzerland" of enterprise software.

The Oracle-Sun deal brings together the world's biggest database supplier with the owner of a major Unix operating system, Solaris, and the number-one in open-source databases, MySQL, but Whitehurst is optimistic that Red Hat can continue existing partnerships with both firms.

"We were a bit surprised like everybody else [by the deal]," Whitehurst said in an exclusive interview with CIO. "We've got good relationships with both and we assume that will continue going forward."

Rather than hitting back by building out a stack of its own, Red Hat will seek to become the neutral party, providing horizontal capabilities and a standards-based architecture that will let buyers plug in elements of choice. "The beauty is that you don't have to worry about us locking you in later," Whitehurst added.

Red Hat would act as the Switzerland of software "or a less polite way of saying it is to say we'll be herding cats", he joked.

Asked whether it would make sense to buy in a database of its own to provide a pre-integrated solution, Whitehurst said that Red Hat had no plans, although "I never want to say never".

Instead, Red Hat will continue to grow organically with plenty of customers moving from free to paid-for terms, and through a burgeoning channel partnership programme, he said. The former COO of Delta Air Lines is optimistic that system integraors seeing revenue streams threatened by software-as-a service companies will turn to Red Hat.