BACKGROUND IMAGE: iSTOCK/GETTY IMAGES
Paul Cormier, Red Hat's President of Products and Technologies, has already convinced himself of the virtues of his company's twelve month shift in focus. His Wednesday morning keynote address at the Red Hat Summit in Boston's Hynes Convention Center represented Cormier's opportunity to convince the gathered community of open-source developers and Red Hat partners that indeed, the company's latest push into the world of cloud computing was the right one, providing value to developers, partners and business leaders alike.
"Over the last twelve months we have transformed the company" said Cormier, promising that the various products and tools to be released and promoted this June would be ones that "define the next generation of computing." But before explaining the details of Red Hat's transformation over the past twelve months, Cormier felt the need to explain how his company had evolved over the past twelve years to become an organization that is uniquely positioned to take the lead in the cloud computing space.
How twelve years led to twelve months
"We always knew that the road to Redmond was through Sun and Mountainview" said Cormier about the first, big bet Red Hat ever made. In fact, most observers would consider it less of a strategic move and more of a basic definition of what the company is all about, that being the commoditization of the proprietary UNIX platform through RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) and Fedora. Love them or hate them, Red Hat will always be known as the company that harnessed the open source community, and through the safety net known as the customer support agreement, subsequently legitimized the Linux operating system to the point where every technical player and enterprise organization was comfortable enough to install the OS into the deepest depths of data center.
But an operating system needs software, and Red Hat's recognition that a world class, open source operating system needed a complimentary development platform was borne out with the acquisition of JBoss and the accompanying suite of popular open source projects that include such stalwarts as Hibernate, RichFaces and Arquillian. "How do I not go to .NET?" was a challenge many customers brought to Red Hat at the turn of the century. With the acquisition of JBoss, Red Hat answered that questions by promoting Java based, open-source software as their recommended alternative.
Beyond the OS and middleware
And once the operating system and the development platform was unified under the Red Hat roof, virtualization started trending. "We recognized that the hypervisor was just part of the operating system," said Cormier, which eventually led to the Red Hat acquisition of Qumranet and their kernel based Virtual Machine (KVM) technology that works so well with RHEL and the proprietary hardware on which it runs.
So why did Paul Cormier unwittingly feel the need to push a history lesson on the attendees of the 2013 Red Hat Summit? Cormier was demonstrating how a ten year history of strategic, yet seemingly unrelated directional changes and corporate acquisitions, have all come together. It is as though there was an invisible hand guiding the entire process to position Red Hat to be not just a player, but the leader in the cloud computing space, and to be a leader in this space not with proprietary intellectual property, but to instead lead the way with open source software and tools instead.
After all, there is no cloud computing without virtualization, and Red Hat is well vested in virtualization through Qumranet and KVM. And as Cormier states quite unequivocally "middleware is the key to cloud computing", as any cloud based system requires a strong middleware foundation to tie the various parts together. Red Hat is knee deep in middleware through their JBoss arm. And of course, all of this cloud computing stuff needs an underlying operating system upon which it must be built, and RHEL bears the company's namesake. Looking at Red Hat's history, understanding what is required to build an enterprise class, cloud computing platform, and putting it all together, a bet the company move on cloud computing seems like less of a gamble, and more of a natural progression forward.