Red Hat Summit – A Retrospective

Blessed Are The Sausage Makers (with apologies to John Cleese and Terry Jones)

I’m tapping this article on a tablet at 37500 feet, sat on a plane enroute home from the US. I am taking time to reflect on a long week of activity at the Red Hat Summit at The Hynes Convention Centre in Boston after a week of little blogging.  It was my first Summit, the eighth Red Hat has staged in what has become an annual tour de force. Talking to fellow staffers, business unit coworkers and attendees it was enlightening to hear how an ever evolving company of Red Hat’s commercial and community standing lines up two major assets for public consumption – products and people.

Let me explain why this is a brave and necessary thing to do and carries a heady measure of risk alongside it.

Ready? Deep breath and let’s dive into this one…

As the accepted global leader of Linux technologies and certified platforms there is an ever present risk when staging anything public that you are putting the entire sausage shop on display. Sausage shop meaning everybody likes eating sausages, but very few people want to know what actually goes into the constituent parts of the recipe, just accepting the final product meets muster and tastes acceptable. Red Hat by its nature can be aligned to a sausage shop in its most literal sense. Like a butcher procuring meat, herbs and raw ingredients from best of breed organic or commercial sources, Red Hat has its own production environment. Its raw ingredients for flagship product grow free range and generically organically, in a well fed and nurtured ecosystem of community and commercial developers alike. Akin to the sausage maker, Red Hat also has to pick the best constituent ingredients and make them certifiable, supportable and marketable to an ever growing market globally.

But here’s where we differ from that local quality butcher, producing his goods in quantities that are manageable to suit market expectations, or supplying his/her local customer base with first class quality product in small batches. Red Hat has to take the resulting products be they Red Hat Enterprise Linux, JBoss Enterprise Middleware, management clustering technologies or even Red Hat Storage and get them to a global market, whilst still maintain the discernible and overwhelming local quality, rather than a mass marketed less tasty version of a factory produced product. To bring products, solutions and consumable visions we convened in Boston and we opened the doors.

Still with me?

In the keynotes, discussions, learning labs, in the corridors and the restrooms, breaking bread and downing espressos sit the very customers who invest in the disruptive technology we bring to the fore, but also community developers who make the ingredients we put in the sausages. So, when our subject matter experts, our keynote speakers and project leads got up in any of the sessions the room was populated with the consumer, the ecosystem and the future potential technology leaders of products platforms and solutions that become the household names of the future.

Try doing that at other computer conferences from major global vendors, where you meet the sausage salesmen and get the mini samples on cocktail sticks. Vendors who ofen first make you accept an end user licence agreement, or vendor lock-in as part of normal commercial practice, before you’ve had a chance to truly understand what the sausage actually tastes like and what went into it.

To stand in a room of your peers at Red Hat Summit takes on another dimension when you then remember that we are in a remarkable model. Major contributions to the Linux kernel are sponsored (by way of companies such as our sponsors Intel, IBM and Cisco) from the .org communities and the daily learning we do globally as an organisation from our end users means the model has reached accepted maturity.

Red Hat in the marketplace is way out ahead by a distance over its nearest rivals in commercially supported Linux, JBoss Enterpise Middleware and on a fast track to understanding the quandary of Big Data / unstructured data etc. This year with Cloud on every analyst’s notebook, our finest sausage makers stood up on stage and put their wares on display to their most discernible audience, the people who care – genuinely – the people who won’t accept smoke and mirrors. The next tech leaders of the ever developing Internet and Cloud age.

For those of you reading this blog, who have proprietary technologies deployed as mainstays of your daily environments, let me throw you a curve ball you cannot afford to drop. The technologies you use – that have the complex multitier EULA agreements and that you cannot get under the hood of – dilute your achievable growth and your technical capabilities.

Never more so is that demonstrated than at a Red Hat Summit. For those organisations who think Open Source and Linux is a cheap and secondary alternative to shrinkwrapped traditional site licence ways of working, you have never been at more risk of being left behind. Left behind commercially, technically and by reflection you potentially fail to return shareholder value to your companies. Every organisation and individual PAYING to attend Summit in Boston walked away armed and tooled even more to continue their evolution and growth.

If you roll your eyes and think this is a Cathedral vs Bazaar Eric Raymond doctrine you couldn’t be more wrong, the top ten emerging technical companies that have become household names all have one thing in common, they ALL use Red Hat Enterprise Linux derived stacks. They rely on Red Hat to go to work and they rely on having that flexibility and power to go from startup to legend.

Everyone attending contributed, shaped and consumed our sausages. I have no doubt (and with the new Red Hat Innovation programme for helping start-ups emerge) that sitting in the labs, meeting rooms, the Spice Cafe and the breakout sessions are people who will be at the very forefront of tools and technologies each of us will rely on, the next Facebook, the next Google. Some very very bright folk.

They have a commonality apart from understanding the domination of Open Source over proprietary models. They share one common bond. They contribute to, consume and distribute with passion the products platforms and technologies we release. They rely on our products and thought leadership as much as we value listen and benefit from their friendship, their tenacity and vision as we build the next house of Red Hat.

Openly, transparently and with purpose the “revolution” took a massive well practiced and sure step beyond angry young men to accepted industry giants, who have grown to a revenue of over one billion dollars annually. Press I spoke to picked up on it, analysts are aligned and anyone who chooses to pay scant regard to the facts in play is running the risk of being marginalised.

Summit 2012 was a turning point. For all of those who attended, spoke, contributed, organised and delivered it – thank you and we hope to see you next year 11-14 June back at the Hynes. Pre-register your interest online here now

Catch up with the Red Hat Summit Video’s

All the keynotes and a lot of the presentations are online right now. Watch them in MP4 and OGG format by following the link to our mediabank here.

Pictured above, some of the Red Hat EMEA Solution Architects run into each other at Boston Logan after a long week of booth duty and customer interaction at Summit – a successful and busy week.