Paul Cormier is Red Hat's executive VP and head of its products and technologies divisions. His experienced thumb is firmly planted in many Red Hat pies; including engineering, product management and product marketing. The company credits the introduction of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) to Cormier's leadership and experience in enterprise technology.
Cormier has returned Down Under on another visit to Red Hat's research and development team in Brisbane, and took some time out to chat with Computerworld about the anticipated boom in virtualisation, cloud computing, Microsoft's open source initiatives, CentOS, how open source software can aid the current economic downturn, and of course, the growing role of Linux and RHEL in the enterprise.
Red Hat managing director for Australia New Zealand, Max Mclaren, also stepped in to answer a couple of questions.
Red Hat has been around for a while now and you've been with the company almost eight years. How important do you think the company has been in the development of open source software in the enterprise space?
I think we've been the driver of it, frankly. When I joined the company almost eight years ago the big milestone was finishing up a release in early October so we could get it out and on the shelves in time for the Christmas retail market. One of the things that we did back then was recognise that open source was a great new and emerging development model.
But from a commercial perspective, customers were having trouble consuming it because open source moves very fast in the way you get to the next release. There wasn't really any notion of stability, a notion of building an ecosystem around it, or building subscription around it where customers could actually help drive where it was going etc. So that is where we came up with RHEL, and frankly I think that was really the major driver in making open source a viable alternative in the commercial market. When you look at it today we're running most of Wall street, we're in most if not all the major verticals, and we're approaching 3 million subscriptions in the commercial space, so we've made a pretty good dent in the enterprise space.
With Red Hat's Linux-based hypervisor, what is the company aiming to achieve in the virtualisation space and why does the market need an open source management platform?
Ubiquity. Virtualisation really is the next generation operating system. If you look at what virtualisation does, and what the lower half of an operating system does - it's one in the same. That's the part that interfaces to the hardware. Right now a RHEL offering of some sort is used in almost all of the other hypervisors as the hardware enablement layer, so it really is the next generation OS. We think that virtualisation is the foundation of one of the next big waves in computing: cloud computing. Cloud computing is the ability to run across private networks to semi-private networks to public networks. Doing that in a proprietary way will limit how far you can go, it will limit what type of networks you can run across and what public networks you can run across etc. So you have to do that in an open source way in order to get that interoperability with open source and open interfaces. So we think that open source virtualisation will really drive the next wave which is cloud computing.
With Red Hat really being the main driver of commercial open source operating systems we think we're in a great position to help to make virtualisation ubiquitous across all hardware platforms. If you look at it now virtualisation is run on somewhere between six to eight percent of servers, and we think in the next two years that will be 90 percent of servers.
We think that Linux in the commercial space, and RHEL specifically, opened up and really showed the viability and advantages of having open source in the enterprise. Where virtualization is the bottom half of the OS, I think it would be a step backwards for the world to go to a proprietary virtualisation layer because we would be back to one or two companies dictating when vendors can ship their hardware, what things they can support, and how they perform etc. We think it's a step backwards to go at that level with proprietary software and I think people are starting to see that and are not wanting to lose the advantages they've gained with open source operating systems.