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Enterprise IT continued to evolve in 2012 at a lightning-fast pace. Concepts like hybrid environments and cloud operating systems moved from being buzzwords that were discussed and planned for, to, in many cases, full-scale implementation.

Simultaneously, other trends began to take shape – trends that will heavily influence the way enterprises approach IT well into next year and beyond. These trends range from the way organizations handle big data to the ever-present need for mission-critical computing. They signify the rising importance of IT within the enterprise, and beg the answer to the question “What does the future enterprise platform really look like?”

Jim Totton, vice president and general manager of Red Hat's Platform Business Unit, has seen these trends grow and change over time. In this interview, he shares his thoughts about what they mean for enterprises as they drive toward remaining ahead of the curve in 2013.

Jim, what changes do you see IT organizations making in 2013 to more strategically impact the business?

The role of IT has never been more important within the enterprise. In a recent Gartner and Forbes survey of Board of Directors, the percent of respondents that rated IT's strategic business value contribution as high or extremely high doubled between 2010 and 2012. The rising expectations of executives require IT to be even more agile when addressing the needs of the business.

In response, we’re seeing a trend towards convergence of compute, storage and network as integrated infrastructure in the next few years. Many of our customers are also looking to standardize their infrastructure to become more efficient. Many of those that have standardized on Red Hat Enterprise Linux across virtual, physical and cloud deployments are able to manage more servers and users per administrator and experience significantly less downtime.

While the long-term goal is simplification and standardization, this represents a significant shift for IT. How and when companies move forward will depend on their ongoing virtualization and cloud computing efforts.

What do you see happening in 2013 that will help enterprises improve from a process perspective?

From a process perspective, we’re also seeing the convergence of development, infrastructure and IT operations teams to strengthen the interdependence of these groups and reduce development and deployment time. More organizations will adopt an integrated DevOps approach to increase communication, collaboration and integration between these teams, and thus eliminate issues that stem from incomplete hand-offs, misinformation or insufficient skills.

This will put additional strain on developers. Not only are they tasked with developing and managing code; many of tomorrow's developers will also be challenged with troubleshooting infrastructure issues once solutions they build are in deployment. This makes the need for reliable platforms and stable operating systems even more critical. As their jobs become more complex, they need an enterprise platform that frees them to focus on new projects, instead of managing downtime.

This model will continue to gain traction within organizations as the IT department achieves greater prominence and enterprises look to streamline operations. But it won't come without challenges. Enterprises will struggle with how to successfully adopt this approach to software development, and it's up to companies like Red Hat to commit to making the transition as painless as possible.

This model appears to be the future of IT within the organization – but what do you see as the future of operating systems?

Operating systems have always served two primary purposes: to enable software and developers to consume and take advantage of hardware innovations as they become available and to deliver a stable foundation on which applications can run. Moving forward, operating systems will continue to evolve in these ways to power the cloud. Take Linux as an example. Linux was developed on and for the Internet and has evolved to support 8 out of every 10 cloud-based applications today.[drop a footnote with the backup for this statement] This is because it's portable, secure, scalable and reliable – all while being open and standards-based.

The cloud demands choice and flexibility, and we believe that’s what will maintain Linux the cloud operating system well into the future, and we expect Red Hat Enterprise Linux to play a key role in that future too. Red Hat Enterprise Linux enables applications to consume compute, storage and network resources on a broad range of virtualization solutions and cloud services from many vendors, with a commitment for stability over a ten year life cycle.

The OS has served as the foundation of traditional IT for decades while continuing to act as a cornerstone for new innovation. This is the role that I see for the operating platform in computing for 2013 and beyond. As organizations move to the cloud, the OS will continue to deliver a critical foundation. The question is which ones are the best fit – those based on a traditional, walled-garden approach that fosters vendor lock-in, or the ones built on open source, that originated on the Internet and are tailor-made for the cloud?

What about the concept of big data? We've been hearing a lot about enterprises' struggles to get a handle on it. How do you see big data continuing to impact businesses next year?

Global data is estimated to increase 50-fold by 2020, and our customers recognize that they need to harness the increased volume, variety and speed of data if they are going to succeed. Not only are they concerned about how to store tremendous amounts of data; they’re also struggling with how to analyze it, because data is only valuable when you can gain insights from it to make decisions.

While businesses have always run on information, big data introduces data sets so large and complex that storing them for easy retrieval is cumbersome. This data comes from a variety of structured and unstructured sources, including business transactions, sensor data, audio, video, click streams, log files and more. IT must ensure that big data is an asset and not a cost by supporting the ability to store, aggregate, normalize, and integrate it from all sources across multiple systems.

But storing the data is only valuable if you can use it. Big data also circumvents our ability to apply a traditional business intelligence approach to working with the data to make decisions. While batch versus real-time data analytics is currently split, companies are putting even greater focus on shifting more analytics to be done in real time. IT must continue to invest in the right transactional and big data analytics systems to analyze and communicate the results that aid in decision making.

Tremendous data volumes and complex, intensive analytic processing require an infrastructure designed for scalability, integration, performance, and scale-out storage. For the foreseeable future, organizations will continue to rely on the infrastructure for big data applications to run reliably and scale seamlessly to keep up with the pace at which data is generated or transferred.

An enterprise platform like Red Hat Enterprise Linux integrates high performance, scalable storage and data throughput with the ability to successfully develop, integrate and secure applications consuming data. This is why we estimate that the majority of big data implementations run on Linux.

Are there any traditional areas of importance that will remain top-of-mind to businesses as we move through 2013?

Mission-critical computing will always be important. Organizations simply cannot afford downtime. That's why ten years ago we saw the start of a transition from UNIX to Linux, which has since accelerated significantly. Organizations that know UNIX and are confident in its capabilities recognize that it’s a 40-year-old operating system and are successfully transitioning to new age architectures built on Linux with minimal concerns. Linux incorporates many of the powerful concepts of UNIX, and I expect that we'll see this migration from UNIX to mission-critical Linux continue to accelerate – particularly as these platforms prove that they have the ability to provide high reliability, availability and scalability.

Anything else you see as being hot-buttons as we move into next year?

Many of the trends we identified last year - such as the budgetary constraints for IT organizations to do more with less, hybrid environments, scale-out architectures, and breaking vendor lock-in - continue to influence organizations in terms of how they approach addressing big data, cloud, consumerization and other concerns. As the role of IT departments become even more strategic, they will continue to face fiscal realities requiring them to look for creative ways to gain efficiencies, such as standardizing their infrastructure and adopting a DevOps approach to development and deployment. OS's will continue to move to the cloud, and hybrid environments will gain steam while organizations turn their backs on vendor lock-in. And scale-out architectures will be driven by the need to get a grasp on all of that data.

We’ll see these trends in 2013 and beyond. Technology is always evolving and I expect that new innovations and concepts will surface to drive us and our customers forward at a breathtaking pace. We’ll continue to provide our customers and partners an enterprise platform that delivers the kind of stability that frees them to take on their biggest challenges now and the flexibility to do what’s most important in the future. And our ecosystem of solutions and support will be at their side to help them get there.

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