Backroom Heroes – Are You One ?

One of the great things about technologies and platforms built around Linux technology is the underlying doctrine that very often, and this is meant without stigma or criticism, they start out as something else that you started designing. Often more feature rich and capable by virtue of the fact that we have the benefit of choice from the myriad of projects that are available to us under Open Source licences and the community mindset of our origins.

This is hugely important as companies, institutions and large scale government usage of Linux has snowballed over the last eight or nine years, and even more so as budgets have become stretched. The ambition and technical requirements of users and organisations refuse to match available funding. E.g our customers, our users and our directors often expect service delivery to match the needs of the business which snowball. Having that Open methodology to service provisioning and product development means that now more than ever the influence of Open Source and Free Software doesn’t just make “inroads” but becomes the “incumbent” technologies that the majority of large organizations now rely on to go to work and deliver service capability.

When I stand at a white board in front of customers or a room full of people who eagerly expect some magic doctrine to appear Hogwarts style from my marker pen I often reflect on the fact that the diagram I’m about to draw, or maybe the steps I’m about to outline come straight from the heart of Open Source. The white board sketch taking place takes it’s shape and meaning from the contributions and commits from the backroom heroes that have built the building blocks of Linux and by reflection the framework of the internet and have given us things that we forget are there from a development perspective and the modular capabilities that we take for granted. Very often technologies, platforms, mash ups and protocols that I’ve watched grow first hand having contributed to them in the community or worked at organisations shaping them before the rest of the world got to download and build their platforms on them. How many of us take a REST API or the ability to use PHP or Python for granted as well as our ability to just roll something without having to go upstream to get a purchase order to buy a Visual Basic or a Lotus Notes licence from a corporate beancounter ? The world has changed, underwritten by the efforts of the community and the maturity model brought to technology change by Red Hat.

I don’t think that we’re under any illusions as technologists that the demands are increasing and it would often be great to have the crystal ball to predict how we’re going to be consuming technology and meeting the demands of users and customers.

It’s even more evident in larger multinational companies or traditional legacy institutions who are probably the biggest growth curve adopters of Open Source, championed and given credence by the often underestimated and unsung bands of heroes working in the backoffice environments. These are the men and women developing the frameworks, the applications and the development environments harnessing the power of Open Source. We see it every single working day given the fact that Red Hat is the backbone of a large percentage of these operational environments and growing.

Linux based platforms, the languages and the technologies that we have as our toolbox to build the feature rich applications, and the structures that our employers or our customers are going to be consuming rely on the capabilities of the community and the likes of companies such as Red Hat especially. This is even more evident when we look at Cloud.

There is a definite change underway right now. For those of us close enough to the coal seam it’s quite clear. IT budgets for adoption and trying to make legacy applications migrate to Cloud are squeezed – or a pot of cash that doesn’t grow dynamically to the actual needs of your incumbent project or the expectations as they become clear. The funding required to create the necessary frameworks and architectures in our datacentres to Cloud are still pinched as CIOs and management work hard to get into a position where by migrating to private or a hybrid cloud model they don’t dilute the governance of existing application schema. To ensure by embracing Cloud that you don’t introduce new risks or unworkable processes that bring new hidden costs of ownership or worse impact on future capabilities. We’ve got your back. Thats not meant flippantly or as a throw away comment it’s a very real statement of intent.

Cloud can often can be seen to be offputting for some organisations where you’re trying to bring processes and teams of developers together to build core architectures and featuresets, but to do so with a level of maturity rather than Cloud just being cobbled together mixtures of applications, a credit card obtained abstraction layer with a service provider, an SLA that’s often confusing and just another part of a roadmap to Cloud that seems to grow at a frenetic pace. The smart money is on the backroom hero being the one that keeps the ship steady and being the staffer who is critical to this getting designed and deployed stably and we’re right behind you able to give you the tools and confidence to make those steps.

Where a decade ago we were at the beck and call (and you could say the mercy of, without being seen as flippant) of proprietary software companies and service organisations globally to determine our own roadmaps for software usage now the model has evolved. The Open Source community have given us the ability to “grab freely” the technology building bricks to structure our daily working environments and to be able to communicate and interact with the community which has as many non-coding consumers of technology as it does those who contribute commits or other important tasks such as documentation or bug testing. You could say it’s given many of us a voice, you’d be short of reality slightly but you’d be on the right track. It’s given many of us an inside track to grow our careers and to further our personal knowledge and core capabilities and more than that it’s allowed us to build, deploy and support enterprise on premise capabilities whilst at the same time keeping our eye on the future needs of our customers and users.

Cloud is no different. The requirements of having SOA architectures migrated to elastic computing / virtualised hosting architectures and the need to start thinking maybe as much a year or two ahead from the governance perspective are very real. Underlying the compute mentality of what we’re being expected to deliver is both exciting and also challenging. We are working extremely hard in the community, you may have seen our recent announcement on the very real contributions we’ve made at the core of the OpenStack project. You may even have missed the ubercool stuff we’ve made available under the Deltacloud API which we put into the Apache Incubator a couple of years ago thats allowed interaction across multiple cloud types helping avoid the dangers of lock in emerge as risk to Cloud growth.

The Aelous project  that we’ve invested so much time and love in (not aware of Aelous ? – then follow the link) and the upcoming release of CloudForms (coming very soon as a supported architecture piece) and our release of OpenShift Origin this week are demonstrating the very real fact that if you’re serious about Cloud – if you’re serious about being Open about adoption of Cloud technology then you have to take Red Hat very seriously. It’s moved the discussion a long way away from the old discussion of free vs fee Linux OS’s, away from the RHEL v CentOS v other free derivatives. It’s not about the OS tier, it’s about a blended approach to Cloud and to have the entire stack open and transparent and to get to Cloud with confidence. It’s easier to do that when you have the ability to work with us to get there to give support to every step of your Cloud stack from application development and the concept of mobility of application across hypervisor types or service providers. This continues through to development of true hybrid architectures and the ongoing administration and evolution of processes and provisioning as your users and customers look for more and more features and services.

It’s no longer enough to keep the discussion at the hypervisor level. We march on code, we march on goodwill and the back office teams of coders, administrators and the heart and soul of many organisations need the supported mature tools to go to work. Our commitment to you as we take these steps forward is that to do this openly and with confidence Red Hat is here to support you.

Linux often used to creep in quietly through the backdoor. We’ve moved on, we’re here to support you and to help you achieve your goals and to do it with confidence, never more so have you been more important to the ambitions of your parent organizations.

We are providing the ladders to climb up, to reinforce the ambitions and to make this achievable. Moving beyond proof of concept to deployed Cloud can be tricky and time consuming. Follow the links in these articles or reach out to me or your local team at Red Hat and we’ll try and show you the best way forward.