Over the last sixteen years of being paid full time to work on Linux and Open Source I have seen technology grow enormously, I’ve seen projects both explode as well as implode and fork, protocols appear, new ways of solving old problems evolve and companies both rise and fall. One thing has remained the same, the conjecture and the articles written by analysts and journalists alike to describe how we all create our pathways to new technology.
To survive in this marketplace any company worth it’s stock price and meeting analyst and customer expectation accordingly needs to have a very flexible but defined set of controls over it’s development, acquisition and market approach. It’s been the same since the dawn of IBM and Xerox and it continues to be the same. One thing that of course has changed has been the shackles imposed by intellectual property being “owned by the fee” to the ability of companies globally to share in the rapid and agile methodologies afforded by using Free and Open Source Software. Reduced time to market, the ability to reverse positions and to move quickly to change market approach and to re-think strategy has become fluid and entirely dynamic. This has of course, not come without significant challenges, and the responsibility of all of us to ensure that we don’t just consume but also contribute back and to maintain the strength and the community heartbeat of Open Source as we take next steps.
Let’s be very clear, Open Source allows organisations to sandpit and build proof of concepts in all areas of technology in a more rapid fashion than ever before and it allows a consensus to grow in every business vertical that unless we adopt, connect and give back we are not partaking in the spirit, but simply reaping the benefits without solving new problems and sharing experience on the way. Red Hat has given back to the community since day one and continues to do so and we also benefit along that route and produce, and support solutions that are best of breed around Linux and Cloud. It’s not a secret, we even show you how the sausages are made, it’s transparent and it’s in your face and customers globally rely on us to maintain software, services and guidance around Open Source.
Open Source could have been described by some in the industry as revolution, in fact you only have to go back and see how young many of us looked in RevolutionOS and other features produced around that time, but more than anything Open Source has supplemented other methodologies and earnt a place at the head of the table for every major household name online brand you could care to name by virtue of it’s flexible nature and power. More than revolution there was steady evolution, responsible guidance and frameworks for growth from companies who emerged. Caldera, Linuxcare, VA Linux, Red Hat, Penguin Computing, SuSE amongst the ranked masses that appeared in the late 1990s. Red Hat, we’re still here. We don’t take for granted for one second the creativity and the power of the community, we still contribute and employ more Open Source key figures than any other SEC listed company worldwide. We also still contribute to every aspect of Open Source and Free Software Communities as well as pushing the mantra of Open being key to what we do and how we succeed.
So this brings us up to where we are today with Cloud.
Recently a couple of articles have appeared that invited discussion and painted a picture of Red Hat and our Cloud Engineering focus that I’d like to correct and to try and explain out. Without conjecture and without the need to appear that I’m playing a biased card because genuinely I’m not, just both articles had me scratching my head having read them confused at the editorial direction and trying desperately to work out how we were being positioned without due diligence seemingly not being done in the drafting of either.
The first was from Laurent Lachal at Ovum. Anybody who has met Laurent knows him as a polished and versatile analyst with his finger right on the pulse, I took part in a thinktank event with him not so long ago and it was great to see him at work, a real thinker, erudite with great balance to technology. His article which appeared in late June on Ovum’s portal confused me slightly because of the positioning. The opening gambit of Red Hat “needing to get out of it’s comfortzone – OpenStack not being the new Linux” confused me greatly, I understood the need for market differentiation and the need to be different but the whole gambit was entirely wrong, hit the tree and missed the apple by a royal mile.
If anybody, analyst or journalist alike thinks that the company who gets to the winning post has the best supported OpenStack solution or a one size fits all installable supportable solution then they’ve misunderstood where we are in 2013 with enterprise computing and solving the needs of our customers. Fact.
Day in day out Red Hat works globally on projects and contributes code, solutions and importantly people, not just our own staffers but our vitally valued and critically important reseller and partner community to solve first world problems in Cloud and virtualisation. We supplement and promote key decision making ability across companies who are looking ahead to OpenStack and other infrastructure solutions to understand how they’re going to form the successful and strong foundations of where to go. Red Hat has long since stopped being just a distribution based company, Red Hat has been out there proving it’s mettle and underwriting and supporting the ambition of customers getting the best out of their rollcall and their investments in technology – and we also have a Linux distribution, RHEL which continues to be the dominant enterprise Linux player. Nobody at Red Hat thinks that OpenStack is the new Linux. Brian Stevens even said it on stage in Amsterdam in November last year at the GigaOM conference, it’s even Google’able. If the main man says it then am entirely unsure what the remit and direction of the editorial stance is ?
Also confused – What is Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform (RHEL-OP) ? It’s described in the article at the commercial version of RDO.. Don’t know what RHEL-OP is, we announced RHOS (Red Hat OpenStack) and it isn’t the commercial supported version of RDO. We explained what RDO was eight weeks before this article went live – it’s even been available on the RDO website since the Monday we launched it at the OpenStack Developer Summit in Portland. Search engines are great at enabling that when researching a position paper or article that you are able to align your sources and editorial before pressing the nuclear publish button. If there is confusion, guess what there are also podcasts available with the RDO community team lead on this very portal that explain what RDO is and what Red Hat OpenStack is. There is also a plethora of other resources such as the podcasts I recorded with Perry Myers and Rhys Oxenham two weeks before this analyst article went live that was listened to by 3,000+ people (including analysts) on the official Red Hat Summit podcast channel so no real excuse for getting stuff so categorically “wrong” . The paragraph “Red Hat needs to more clearly define how it plans to converge its technologies” then goes on once more to entirely confuse our actual stance around Cloud engineering. At Red Hat we’re open and transparent. It’s one of the reasons people feel safe because we tell people what we put in our sausages and we work hard to communicate effectively with customers – ahead of time. We’re a subscription based company built on strong foundations of engineering excellence and communicating our services and our solutions to resellers and customers alike. It’s something that works well and something that we always strive to ensure is a deliberate go to market strategy.
To this end on the 16th June we released tools to help people understand our strategy around RHCI to enable and aid customers looking at workload migration and to also make sure that our pathway and positioning was easily understood. Alongside these paper tools and online articles we even released a video detailing what our stance is and how we’re working hard to enable transition and change in Cloud. So once more I’m left scratching my head as to trying to understand that if we release this stuff a whole nine days before the analyst piece appeared on Ovum as to why the positioning in the article was so blatantly at odds with reality ? My good friend Stephen J Vaughan Nicholls at ZDNet whose counsel and guidance I regularly rely on published this article on the 13th June almost a fortnight before that did well to paint the reality of how hard we’re working to enable OpenStack as a developing and critical part of Cloud. Add on the whole raft of keynotes and product specific videos that were available immediately online via YouTube during and post Red Hat Summit a week before the article was posted actually gave root and branch guidance as to our stance without having to even do a great deal of homework, you just have to listen to Paul Cormier or Brian Stevens (especially the cameo from Mark McLoughlin who features on podcasts here) to have enough correct info to position your piece accurately without conjecture or mistake.
The second article was from Brian Proffitt carrying the headline – Reality Check – OpenStack is NOT the new Linux. Might be worth you reading it (clicking on it will open it in a new window).
Now Brian is somebody I personally owe a lot to and whom I have a great deal of personal admiration for. On September 22nd 2000 he published the worlds first polished editorial reviews of our then GPL project SmoothWall that myself and Lawrence Manning were quietly creating in a back bedroom in Hampshire in the UK that would go on to be so huge worldwide and still so popular in millions of networks worldwide. He’s written books that I have on my bookcase and he’s someone I look up to a lot and is one of the original good guys of Open Source and he won’t take it personally if I react to his editorial. At least I hope not. To be very clear here’s a guy who has written and published more editorial in a calendar month than I have in years. You’ve probably read dozens of his articles. However this piece I disagreed with entirely and I know I don’t stand alone. I read it three times, I shared it with people I trust inside and outside of Red Hat who scratched their head and again didn’t quite get the conclusions or the workings . It genuinely didn’t seem to have a point to it and meandered around in circles without making conclusions that merited being published on Linux.com. I can call it out I pay my annual membership to the Linux Foundation and I always loudly support their goals and aims. Just very surprised that this merited publication didn’t suggest balance in the final draft. In some ways the article made some of the same salient points Laurent attempted without research to project across. Maybe it influenced the article, who knows. I know Brian works at SuSE as an evangelist and I am wearing my red Fedora to type this but don’t expect some MTV style Cloud Deathmatch any day soon. Open Source invites discussion, views that differ and provides an avenue for clarity and resolution in all areas of good software development and release and our reporting and analysis of it is no different.
Let’s be clear where we are at without conjecture
At Red Hat we always strive to communicate openly and transparently (and this is in no particular order):
- To the market, our shareholders, analysts the press etc
- To our global customers
- To our partners throughout the world
- To resellers and the channel who do an amazing job assisting customers with OSS solutions
- To our community and the wider Linux and OSS community who we rely on to behave in the same manner
- To customers we haven’t yet welcomed into the Red Hat family
It’s like showing your math working in an examination or test, it’s about being open and transparent so situations like this don’t arise if you use the freely available information at your fingertips to make reasoned judgement using accurate sources. When I record shows and write articles I try to do my homework, Google is my friend and where I need concise information I go and ask people for guidance and information or I don’t hit that publish button. OpenStack has a foundation that Red Hat contribute to, Mark McLoughlin sits on the board and we again are supportive and open to everything that OpenStack stands for and where it’s going. Anybody who thinks that Red Hat is trying to “take over” or to be the best polished OpenStack distribution or make Red Hat the dominant player in OpenStack alone is so far away from the reality of how Cloud is consumed and provisioned by IT departments who want the best out of their technology and simply want a safe bet. Given how many customers globally look to Red Hat compared to every other OSS player for enterprise support it therefore doesn’t surprise me that there are some conclusions reached often where things are slightly rose tinted.
I hope I’ve explained why in this case it’s really quite vital that I feel that you need to prepare before publishing a position piece which can otherwise look inaccurate. Sources like my portal should be invaluable to analysts as you get to hear from the horses mouth as it were, from the people involved in the podcasts I release and the articles I link to from my Twitter feed. I do half the leg work for you.
Getting to the Cloud relies entirely on engineering excellence, relies on knowing the problems you need to solve and being open and entirely diligent about the steps you take in order to build service and offerings. To not learn from the lessons and experiences of the last fifteen years at Red Hat flies in the face of what this company is about and where we are taking this organisation fuelled by the passion and integrity of the staff and the ethos of the company.
We have no secret sauce, we just have the ambitions and the goodwill of the forward thinking customers globally to take care of, openly.