This August marks a quarter-century since Linus Torvalds sent his monumental email announcing the launch of the Linux kernel. What was once an operating system purely for hobbyists is now a driving force behind enterprise IT innovation, not to mention technology standardization in the datacenter. As various analyst reports have highlighted, open source, particularly Linux, has become a default option in enterprise IT deployments, with more and more CIOs paying closer attention to the "openness" of their technologies. In the last 25 years, Linux and open source have changed the world.
Today, open source is an enterprise reality, and in an age of hybrid cloud and heterogeneous technology, customers can now use the best of open source across the datacenter’s four footprints. Choice, flexibility, and collaboration are core tenets of open source.
But innovation may be where the clear power of open source shines most brightly today.
Cloud computing as we know it today simply could not exist without the flexible, scalable base provided by enterprise-grade Linux distributions. The same can be said for big data technologies based on the open source Hadoop project, which requires the high-performance computing capabilities of the Linux kernel to run at enterprise scale. And now, open source is the driving force behind the innovation du jour: Linux containers.
Containers are driving a rapid evolution of the enterprise computing stack, but while this innovation is happening quickly, enterprise-grade solutions, hardened and standardized for the rigors of business computing, have been slow to follow. This is where Red Hat is leading, straddling the line between innovation and the enterprise with 15 years of experience in building Fortune 500 infrastructure and a decade-plus in bringing stable innovation to developers. While upstream innovation is in our DNA, Red Hat leads the charge when it comes to bridging this innovation with the needs of the modern enterprise, and Linux containers are no different than Linux or the open cloud before it.
The container-centric world...does not yet exist
But upstream innovation alone is not enough to drive adoption. While startups to tech titans are pushing containers, enterprise applications are unique, with their own specific needs, ranging from lifecycle and quality management to security and code hardening. These applications run the world, so to speak, and Linux, more often than not, is at their heart. This means that to enter the Linux container space, all vendors, regardless of size or solution, are now Linux vendors, with all the trials and tribulations that entails. They’ll need to answer to IT managers, CIOs and other decision-makers on:
How is your Linux supported?
How secure is it?
Will it support my existing investments?
Is it built on industry standards??
What does the ecosystem look like in support of your Linux distribution?
Red Hat has the answers to these questions; in fact, we’ve answered them successfully for 15 years, emerging from the fractured world of UNIX and disparate Linux distributions with Red Hat Enterprise Linux as the world’s leading enterprise Linux platform.
Security, in particular, is of paramount importance, as is retaining existing investments in IT and maintaining stability for the future; every innovation, including Linux containers, present significant challenges in these areas. With nearly 15 years of leadership in driving open source in the enterprise, Red Hat is well-versed in addressing these needs, both from the technology and the support standpoints. The hard questions about container security matter. Many vendors in this space are dodging those questions, or attempting to answer them off with half-baked announcements. But, when you peer a little deeper into those "answers," you may see very little meat on the proverbial bones.
Linux was something for hobbyists when it first emerged in the early 90s; now it’s the backbone of the digital world, and Red Hat had a major role in driving that adoption, thanks to Red Hat-led innovations like SELinux for enhanced security. For container adoption to happen in a meaningful way in the enterprise, someone needs to be the leader who bridges innovation with enterprise requirements. I believe that company will be Red Hat.
Standards are another key to addressing questions around security and interoperability - to that end, we are founding members of the Open Container Initiative and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. The former aims to establish clear, industry-wide standards around the image format for Linux containers, while the latter looks at the wider infrastructure and orchestration demands of containers; key factors for actual adoption.
A more secure, stable foundation for containers...without sacrificing innovation
All of the benefits of containers could be forgotten, however, if enterprises are forced to dismantle existing infrastructure and systems just to containerize. We understand the overwhelming need for stability across operations, regardless of innovation. With the launch of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 two years ago and many of our other enterprise grade solutions, Red Hat has shown our expertise in bringing innovation to bear while preserving existing IT deployments.
We are doing the same thing for Linux containers with Red Hat OpenShift; it’s no coincidence that OpenShift is built on the backbone of the world’s leading enterprise Linux platform. It also, however, remains the first and most comprehensive Docker and Kubernetes -based enterprise container platform - bridging upstream open source innovation with enterprise stability.
With our announcements today at Red Hat Summit, Red Hat now delivers the industry's broadest, enterprise-grade set of solutions to deploy Linux containers and container infrastructure across the enterprise. From local cloud-native application development to complete business transformation via containers, Red Hat powers solutions for nearly every conceivable need, all built on a platform (OpenShift) and an operating system (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) that already deliver the foundation for the Fortune 500.
The rise of Linux over the last 25 years has taught us many important lessons on innovation that can be applied to containers. Innovation needs a purpose, and the purpose of our work in containers is to power the enterprise of tomorrow without sacrificing today.
About the author
Paul Cormier is president and CEO of Red Hat, the world’s leading provider of open source enterprise IT software solutions and services. Before being named president and CEO in April 2020, Cormier was president of Products and Technologies at Red Hat, driving major strategy shifts and expansion of the company’s portfolio of products and services.