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With the wrap-up of Red Hat Summit 2020 Virtual Experience, we often look back and reflect on the highlights of what we as an organization have successfully accomplished in delivering to our attendees. However, this particular Summit stands out among its predecessors, in that our entire planned on-site conference for San Francisco was completely virtualized in a matter of weeks. The first of its kind, our virtual experience reached an audience like never before.

Completely free for anyone to attend, talk to subject matter experts, learn about new and exciting advancements in open source technologies, and understand what makes Red Hat an industry leader. More than 56,000 attendees globally joined over two full days of keynotes, general sessions, live chats with experts, breakout sessions and virtual labs. 

To have an event with such a broad reach required a significant undertaking in ensuring that the supporting structure behind the scenes could handle the load. This included the supporting structure for attendees to take part in lab environments to get hands-on experience with popular applications and platforms, including Red Hat Ansible, Red Hat Ansible Tower, Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform and Red Hat OpenStack Platform. Without the ability to be physically present at the event, a new solution was necessary.

This undertaking began in 2019 during the Red Hat Summit in Boston, MA.

The modernization project for our self-service demonstration platform was started in response to an exponential increase of labs and demo environment provisions. Since 2017, the amount of provisioned labs has increased a staggering 1,500%, growing from 500 in 2017 to more than 8,000 per month in late 2019, and still climbing. The project became the last, best hope for the ever-increasing costs and scalability of lab environments.

A multi-day planning session in late 2019 resulted in the design of the platform and the plan for the event: A combination of Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform 4, Red Hat Ansible Tower, and Red Hat OpenStack on IBM Cloud, which was planned to go live in April 2020 and be used at San Francisco. However, the plan was upended with the decision to virtualize the entirety of Red Hat Summit 2020 in a matter of days.

The solution had to evolve to not only be a robust lab and demo deployer and host, but it also needed to provide attendees with and experience as close as they would have had in an on-site event; namely, the ability to talk with each other, and speak with presenters in one-on-one sessions, use a laptop-like workstation to log in and navigate the infrastructure deployed without installing or troubleshooting tools. The following weeks were spent optimizing the platform to make it an efficient tool for presenters to showcase their sessions' content comfortably (instructions, helpful images and terminals) and give attendees an experience as close as what they were used to, all from the comfort of their own homes.

The result led the the platform's first live event to be a success, deploying a total of more than 1,550 environments over the course of two days, efficiently scaling to meet the ever-changing demand as a result of the choice of the technology platform in use, and the effort of the teams working together behind the scenes. With a new self-service labs platform in place, Red Hat can continue to reach an even larger audience in future conferences globally.

Learn more about the new Red Hat Services sessions premiering this week at Red Hat Summit Virtual Experience: Open House and register for the event today.

About the author

Noelia is a Senior Architect and the technical platform owner of Red Hat Product Demo System. Within Red Hat Services, she leads the execution of technical labs and demos in events. With over 14 years of experience in the IT field, and overall 10 years of experience in different cloud technologies, she specializes in getting users and developers closer to our complex back-end architecture in a friendly way.

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