Red Hat Summit Recap – 2012

Last month we had our annual Red Hat Summit.  I always look forward to Summit as it gives me the ability to connect with users and customers at a frequency that I don’t get on a daily basis.  I try and spend as much time as I can with users and customers, both in understanding their current needs as well as deducing some trends for the upcoming year.  Here are my conclusions for the 2012 Summit:

1. IT shops are moving beyond basic virtualization (finally!)

Now, this is probably a bit skewed since I’m an OpenShift guy and tend to be asked a lot of PaaS / IaaS / Cloud questions, but there was something different this year.  The questions I was being asked had enough depth that it wasn’t just casual prodding of things to expect with ‘cloud’, but questions from customers that had been through designs and experimentation themselves.  This was an exciting change for me because it means that IT shops are becoming comfortable enough with the core capabilities like virtualization and provisioning to pursue more.  Private cloud and IaaS capabilities are maturing quite a bit and there was a lot of questions on usage and expectations on all fronts.  The big issue everyone was bumping up into with the public cloud was data locality and regulations.  I think that is going to be a challenge for years to come but luckily private cloud solutions are getting more robust which will let IT shops in that predicament still compete.  In fact, Red Hat announced our Enterprise PaaS offering which includes offerings installable in customer data centers.  I think being able to bridge the private and public cloud is going to be a key requirement for any vendor looking to compete in this space.

2. SELinux is getting more popular with cloud deployments

I’m not used to being asked SELinux questions at all really.  Heck, I’m usually the guy promoting it at conferences and educating people on it.  So by the 3rd or 4th time SELinux conversations were coming up, I had to wonder what was changing.  My conclusion is that with most things cloud, achieving maximum density and cost effectiveness is usually a primary goal.  However, in many cases, extreme density comes at the cost of security.  Given the amount of security exposures that made big headlines recently, it appears that a refocusing on the security side of solutions is occurring.  It also appears that people are starting to realize that SELinux provides a very elegant solution to help avoid having to make this compromise.  SELinux provides a layer of security at the kernel that allows you to securely segment filesystem and process interactions (among other things).  This allows you to run a variety of workloads on the same machines, using and overcommitting the underlying resources as necessary without giving up the ability to segment those applications.  Segmentation used to be something only attempted at a virtual machine or physical machine level.  That is no longer be the case.  On OpenShift we’ve been a fan of this approach for a long time and it’s worked extremely well.  Glad that others are looking at the same model.

3. Developer efficiency is becoming a focus of IT shops

Okay, this one is definitely biased since I’m a PaaS guy.  That said, before I was a PaaS guy, I was an IT guy.  I worked on both the development and the operational side of the house for several years.   One of things I learned with operations is that they traditionally care more about the running system than the development process.  The opposite was true for development – they often ignore the complexities of keeping their code running and focus on cutting new code.  However, as operations generally controls much of  the IT budget, it was always a struggle to actually get the development side of the house productive.  In 2009, the idea of a DevOps model was introduced which would bring both sides of IT closer together and harmony would ensue… Why then has it taken until 2012 for this to start to take hold?  I think that very strong catalyst was needed to force a change in the existing behavior.  And these days, there are quite a few catalysts that are forcing change in many companies: the public cloud, the economy and startup competition.  For the first time in a while, I was talking with customers that were legitimately trying to bring their development and operational processes together.  In some cases, it was an operational change driven by the transparency of public cloud pricing and realizing that if they couldn’t compete, developers could get services elsewhere.  In some cases it was the economic pressure pushing companies to do more with less.  And in other cases, it was the realization of what some very small companies have been able to achieve just using cloud-based services.  Whatever the motivation, companies are re-invigorated to compete and ready to change to make that happen.  I love seeing that and I think these companies will be the ones that push the boundaries of PaaS offerings and help that space to continue to evolve.