Yesterday at Red Hat Summit, the company laid out its vision of the future, and it did so with hardly a mention of the word "Linux." Instead, we heard about "the automated enterprise, powered by Ansible."
What happened? Is Red Hat no longer a Linux company?
As veteran Linux and open source journalist Steven J. Vaughan Nichols pointed out earlier this week, it is and it isn't. Linux is still at its core, with Red Hat Enterprise Linux, but it's not what it's selling anymore. Why? Because the operating system isn't an end unto itself. It's what's being done with the OS that's important.
Red Hat is an open source solutions provider. That's what it's been since the day it shifted its focus from home users and the desktop to the enterprise and servers. Immediately after the transition, Linux was the solution it was selling. Those days are gone; there's no need to "sell" Linux anymore. In the enterprise, everybody is already sold, with most using Linux as the backbone of their IT infrastructure.
So Red Hat announced its vision for the future, which can best be summarized as "bringing order out of chaos," with hardly a mention of Linux.
"Given the rapid adoption of containers we’re seeing, I believe that we might be looking at a sea change in the world of technology where we could soon be experiencing new feature velocity rates in areas like private and public clouds that we have not seen in our lifetimes," Red Hat's CEO, Jim Whitehurst, wrote in a blog that was published at about the same time as he was giving the morning's keynote address.
"As containers open up limitless opportunities for applications inside an organization to interact with each other, it begs the question of how will organizations be able to maintain and support such a dynamic environment? If you have four million microservices talking to and updating each other on a rapid-fire basis, how do you monitor those interactions and perform application performance management? How do you diagnose issues when something goes wrong? In short, it will require a fundamental rethinking of all the technology and functions involved in running an application portfolio."
He asked good questions, which he didn't quite answer in his blog, except to note that "Red Hat is investing hard in the infrastructure behind the data and application control center of the future because we recognize how the adaptability of open source can play a critical role in this regard."
The specifics came shortly afterwards, however, when the company announced "Red Hat’s vision for the automated enterprise, powered by Ansible."
"The complexities of modern, multi-cloud environments can be staggering and, without automation, managing the environments that drive innovation can be impossible," the company said in a press release. "To date, automation has generally been used discretely within enterprises, with a different tool for each management domain, narrow in scope and tactically used by siloed teams, dramatically limiting it’s potential and value."
Red Hat intends to remedy the situation with Ansible, its agentless, simple and purportedly easy-to-use (your experience may vary) automation platform. It's going to be everywhere.
"Red Hat is aiming to change this with Ansible. By bringing Ansible automation across its portfolio - including Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat OpenStack Platform, Red Hat OpenShift, Red Hat Storage, and its management offerings, Red Hat will be able to deliver strategic automation technology to enterprises."
In other words, wherever Ansible isn't already incorporated -- it's going to be. To underline the point, Red Hat announced a new release of Insights, the company's predictive analytics and actionable intelligence platform -- "now with Ansible." Also, an announcement that Red Hat CloudForms 4.5, the company's cloud management platform, "takes an industry-first Ansible automation-based approach to multi-cloud management."
All this is well and good, and is probably just what Red Hat's enterprise customers need. Certainly, second guessing a $2 billion company that's not known for making mistakes is well above my pay grade.
But Ansible's not my point. Nor is OpenShift or AWS, the stories that came out of Tuesday's Red Hat Summit.
Open source developers and vendors no longer have to spend time convincing potential customers that the roof won't cave-in if they migrate to Linux or deploy open source solutions. Both have become about as common in the enterprise as nitrogen is in our atmosphere. This leaves open source companies open to doing more important work, like figuring out how to help big enterprise customers manage increasingly complex infrastructures.
In other words, Red Hat doesn't have to be a "Linux company" anymore. It can be what it always was: an open source solutions provider.