Thursday, April 12, 2012

Podcast: I talk open clouds with Chris Wells

My colleague Chris Wells turns the tables on me and interviews me about the characteristics of an open cloud. These include:
  • is open source
  • has a viable, independent community
  • is based on open standards
  • gives you the freedom to use IP
  • is deployable on the infrastructure of your choice
  • is pluggable and extensible with an open API
  • enables portability of applications and data to other clouds
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Gordon Haff:  You're listening to the Cloudy Chat Podcast with Gordon Haff.
Chris Wells:  Welcome, everyone. For today's podcast, we're going to do something a little bit different and turn around. My name is Chris Wells and I'm a Product Marketing Manager here at Red Hat. Today I'm actually going to interview Gordon Haff, our cloud evangelist.
Gordon:  Hey. Thanks, Chris.
Chris:  We'll turn the tables here a little bit. I'll ask you some of the questions. I understand that you've been doing a lot of work, and Red Hat in particular has been doing a lot of work, around open cloud. Could you just talk a little bit about what does Red Hat mean when it says "open cloud?"
Gordon:  Sure. Well, the idea of an open cloud is really that you can build a cloud out of all your IT infrastructure and not just a part of it. Also, there are a lot of other characteristics that are very important to, really, all the customers we talk about ‑ the ability to move applications from one cloud to another, the ability to develop applications once and deploy them anywhere you want, the ability, really, to be in control of your own roadmap. Obviously, as an open source company, Red Hat places a lot of value on openness across a number of different dimensions. I have to say, we've actually been a little bit surprised maybe about how much this message has resonated with our cloud customers.
Chris:  Well, when you talked a little bit about the open source piece there, is it simple enough to say that open cloud equals open source, or is there more to it than that?
Gordon:  There's a lot more to it than that. Open source is clearly very important. I think a lot of the aspects of openness around clouds are kind of hard to imagine how you might get there without open source, but open source by itself does have a lot of benefits. It lets the users control their own implementation. It doesn't tie them to a particular vendor. It lets users collaborate with communities. If they want something that's a bit different, or maybe they and some other end users want something that's a bit different, they can go in that direction and don't have to convince some vendor to do it.
Obviously, part of that is viewing source code and being able to do their own development. Although that's very important, it doesn't stop there.
Chris:  Where else does it go?
Gordon:  Staying on the open source theme, one of the first things is that open source isn't just code and license. Not like, "OK, I can see the code. It's licensed under Apache. Everything's great. Don't need to worry about it any more." The community that's associated with that open source code is really important. Really, if it's just open source and it's still just a single company that's involved in it, that probably doesn't buy an end user an awful lot, because all the developers are still with that single company. Really realizing the collaborative potential for open source means that you have a vibrant community, and that involves things like governance. How do you contribute code? What are the processes for that kind of thing? Where does innovation come from?
Also related to that is open standards. Again, these things are all related to each other. Again, I'd probably argue truly open standards aren't possible outside of open source, because then they're always going to be tied to a single vendor in some way or another.
Standardization, in the sense of official standards, even isn't necessarily the critical thing here. These things take a long time to roll out, and cloud computing is such a new area, but the idea that you have standards, even if they're not fully standardized yet, is still very important.
Chris:  That's very interesting. Now, you mentioned a little bit earlier about talking to different types of customers. Do you see as customers have more and more interest in going to cloud computing, are they more interested in the open cloud or open source type of approach than they might have been in a traditional data center?
Gordon:  Yeah, I think so because cloud is really about spanning all this heterogeneous infrastructure, whether it's public clouds, whether it's different virtualization platforms, or whether it's physical servers even. I think a lot of people think cloud is just virtualization or public clouds, but actually, pretty much everyone we talk to says that they really see for a lot of workloads, that maybe 20 to 25 percent of the workloads in organizations, that those are really going to stay in physical servers for the foreseeable future. There's definitely an interest in moving those workloads to the cloud.
Chris:  Now, there's a lot of vendors in the cloud space besides Red Hat. Red Hat's obviously taken this approach to really go down the open cloud paradigm that we talked about because that's pretty consistent with our heritage and our history around being open source. What do you see as challenges for other vendors that today aren't open?
Gordon:  The big challenge is that users are demanding openness. And in fact, if you look at the cloud computing marketing literature out there, not to mention any names, but you see some very much closed vendors out there who have "Open" in huge type on their websites. It's usually because they're trying to frame themselves as being open in some narrow sense. Perhaps they've contributed their APIs to some standards organization or something. I think they're going to be challenged when you compare them with a company like Red Hat, for example, which has a long heritage in open source, knows how to work with communities, knows how to ‑ really understands the depth of openness that is required. I think they're going to be challenged to combat that effectively.
Chris:  For our listeners out there in the audience, I think most of them would agree, because I think you and I have talked to a lot of customers that definitely want this openness. The question's going to be everyone is trying to say that they're open. If you're in the customer's shoes today, or our listener's shoes, what kind of questions can they ask to actually figure out is something truly open versus someone just saying the word "open?"
Gordon:  I've gone through a few of these already, but let me go down the list of things that we've come up with that, as we talk to our customers, really resonate with them as mattering. I've mentioned open source, mentioned the community associated with that open source, mentioned open standards.
Another important aspect of openness is freedom to use IP. Now, we don’t have a lot of time to get into that here but, suffice it to say that, although modern open source licenses and open standards can mitigate certain aspects of IP issues—patents, copyrights, and so forth—freedom to use IP is a separate issue that users ought to be aware of.
Is deployable in the infrastructure of your choice. This speaks to in cloud [how] it really can't be just an extension of a particular virtualization platform, for example. It really needs to be independent of that other layer and deployable in public, choice of virtualization platforms and physical servers.
The ability to extend APIs, adding features, can't be under the control of a single implementation or vendor. That was one reason that something called the Deltacloud API that Red Hat uses is under the auspices of the Apache Software Foundation, which is a very well‑regarded, meritocracy‑based governance regime, so that kind of governs how people can contribute and extend that.
Finally, just the idea that you have portability to other clouds. You can't have a cloud that requires that you develop your software in a particular way that's tied to that particular cloud so that you have to port it if you want to move it somewhere else. Those are really the main things that we think about when we think of an open cloud, and that's really resonated with our customers.
Chris:  Well, Gordon, this is some great information that you've shared with our audience today. I think you've given them some great takeaways of characteristics they should look for around choosing a vendor around open and cloud and some key questions to ask. Thank you very much.
Gordon:  Thanks, Chris.
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