Monday, March 25, 2013

Podcast: Red Hat OpenShift Enterprise with Joe Fernandes

PaaS started out as a tool for developers. But on-premise commercial products like OpenShift Enterprise now make PaaS a valuable tool for many different roles within enterprises. Joe Fernandes heads OpenShift product management at Red Hat. On this podcast, he shares what enterprise customers have been telling him about PaaS.


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Gordon Haff:  This is Gordon Haff, cloud evangelist with Red Hat. I'm sitting here today with Joe Fernandes, who handles the OpenShift product management team. Welcome, Joe.
Joe Fernandes:  Thanks, Gordon.
Gordon:  We've been on a little bit of a OpenShift run in terms of podcasts recently because there's been a lot of activity going on. Today I'd like to focus in specifically on OpenShift Enterprise, which is our on‑premise commercial offering of Platform-as-a-Service for organizations that want Platform-as-a-Service but want it on‑premise. Joe, we launched OpenShift Enterprise back in November right around Thanksgiving. Can you maybe tell us where things stand?
Joe:  Yeah. Thanks, Gordon. Things have been going great. As you mentioned, we launched the first GA release of OpenShift Enterprise 1.0 back in November. It's been a whirlwind since then. We've been involved in a number of customer engagements, different evaluations, and proof of concepts. Talking to our customer base and reaching out to new customers who have learned about what we're doing in the cloud space and in PaaS specifically. More recently we launched the 1.1 version, which was our first point release. We're in the process of launching another release, 1.2, which will be timed around Red Hat Summit. We're being quite aggressive on the development side in terms of rolling out new releases and integrating the features and enhancements and extending the platform to suit the needs of our users.
Gordon:  What are some of the things that maybe have surprised you a little bit as we rolled out OpenShift Enterprise? This is a new area in Platform-as-a-Service, which started out predominantly, like our own offering, as these hosted services. What are you finding now that you're talking to a lot of enterprises?
Joe:  One thing is the broad interest in Platform-as-a-Service among enterprise customers. We're talking to some of the largest companies out there and folks that may have reasons to be a little bit more reluctant to move applications to the cloud, to use some of these newer cloud services. The interest among enterprise customers is great to see. Then within those customers, the interest within the different teams. I think we talked about this last time. PaaS is often pitched to developers, but we're talking to just as many administrators, operations folks, and enterprise architects about what PaaS can do for their organizations as we are strictly talking to developers and development managers.
Also, the use cases. We're talking to a lot of customers about PaaS not only for dev and test but for production. That's really great to see because people are thinking about this as something that they can use to take applications across the life cycle.
Gordon:  One of our colleagues, Dan Juengst, has talked about this idea of a software factory. [What] that really involves, though, is you can't just have a factory for your applications in part of their life cycle. It really needs to be a workflow that takes you from the applications being written to the applications running in production.
Joe:  Right, absolutely. There's a few things driving that. First, obviously, the IT operators, the administrators. One of the things they need to do is serve the needs of their developers that are responsible for building these new applications as services. Oftentimes, enabling those developers with new platforms, software and so forth so that they can stand up these applications, they can do their development, and do their testing, can be a challenge, especially given the proliferation of new applications and new services being developed across the enterprise.
We've also gotten into the challenges that they face once those applications move to production. They not only want to reduce the amount of time that it takes to get their developers and their QA teams enabled, but for themselves, they're deploying applications to production at a rapid pace. They want to be able to accelerate that process to streamline the process of moving those applications out to production. Looking at Platform-as-a-Service is a mechanism for maybe helping them do that.
Gordon:  One of the things I find interesting about the enterprises adopting PaaS. When people started talking about the cloud at first, there was one school of thought that everything was going to go Software‑as‑a‑Service. People weren't going to need to write applications any longer and so forth. That certainly has happened to a degree with certain types of applications ‑‑ a Salesforce CRM, for example. One of things that has come out in the last year or so is that these tools to make it easier to develop applications have actually created this real renaissance of writing applications to support specific industries, specific business requirements and so forth.
Eric Knipp of Gartner actually was speculating that maybe we're going to have a golden age of enterprise application development brought on by PaaS, because there really is this incredible appetite for applications that support a particular company's business. In the past it was retarded by the fact it took a lot of effort to write those applications.
Joe:  Yeah, absolutely. A couple of points you made there. First, there is a tremendous appetite within the enterprise for tools and methodologies that can help accelerate application development. Despite the availability of packaged applications available through software‑as‑a‑service, it hasn't diminished the need for custom application development. Oftentimes, a lot of these applications are even developed around services.
We're talking to customers that may be using a Salesforce, but then build a whole series of modules that plug into Salesforce or applications that pull data from Salesforce or whatever they happen to be using for CRM, ERP or what have you.
These are what we refer to as systems of engagement, systems that basically take that data from ERP, CRM, or other applications which are traditionally systems of record, and bring that closer to users ‑‑ whether it's customers, whether it's partners, or whether it's internal employees and so forth.
Again, these may be Web applications, but they may be mobile applications. They may be social applications. They may be location‑aware. Again, as the different types of applications have grown, the enterprise needs to keep up and needs to be able to build these things faster.
What you see is a long tail of applications within the enterprise. You see a handful of big, strategic, applications that probably still run on hefty systems. Maybe they're not even running in virtual environments today. Then you see a much longer tail of these systems of engagement, these smaller applications that address specific use cases or target specific areas of the business.
The question is, how does IT support all that? How do they manage a handful of mission‑critical systems, but still enable the business to do what it needs to do across all these applications?
The second point you made is, there is always an adoption curve within the enterprise. Particularly, as you get into larger organizations, there's certainly more risk. There's more concern about making sure that they're not exposing themselves to risk as they adopt new technologies.
We saw this with virtualization, which in the early days was something that enterprises were still getting there hands around. Now it'd be hard‑pressed to find in enterprise that doesn't have a significant portion of their infrastructure virtualized.
Software-as-a-Service. Most enterprise that you talk to are leveraging one or more significant SaaS‑based applications to run their business. Even Infrastructure-as-a-Service, I've been struck by the number of customers that I've spoken to that already have Infrastructure‑as‑a‑Service‑based clouds, either in operation or at least in development in something that they're thinking about.
Platform-as-a-Service is the next wave that really hasn't quite made it into the enterprise in a large scale and so forth, primarily because it hasn't been something that enterprises have been able to consume in either an on‑premise or a hybrid model.
That's the first thing we did with open OpenShift Enterprise. We brought Platform-as-a-Service and these capabilities that you barely saw in public PaaS providers. We brought it in an on‑premise, private, PaaS deployment model to enterprise customers and enabled hybrid. We're continuing to see great traction with that.
Gordon:  Let's talk about some of those specifics here, going from dev test to production. What are these requirements that these customers have that changes with something like OpenShift Enterprise that makes that now suitable for what they want to do, which previous offerings really didn't meet their requirements or at least their perceived requirements?
Joe:  When you're talking about running production applications within a PaaS, it's really not much different than what you think about for production requirements in general. People are going to be focused on scalability. They're going to be focused on security. They're going to be focused on compliance issues, which may be specific to their particular business or region of the world that they operate in and so forth. When they talk to us about our PaaS platform, they want to know about these things. They want to know, again, on the one hand, how's it going to meet the needs of my developers, my QA folks or the dev and test environments that we hope to bring this to. But then, if I bring it into production, what's your story around high availability? What's your story around security? How are my administrators going to manage this stuff?
In a production setting, it probably is no longer developers that are deploying those applications. It may be an application administrator or an operations person that's going to be handling those deployments. They need to handle those oftentimes through some kind of a workflow or in a managed way and so forth.
These are things that, when you think about production environments, really start to change the game and become something that I think PaaS is evolving to in terms of being able to address those needs.
Gordon:  Of course, it has to the support the development environments like Java EE. They want to run their enterprise prize apps. I think you want to be very clear on one thing here. This isn't about on‑premise versus hosted offerings. I certainly expect, in many cases, you're going to see enterprises adopting some sort of hybrid architecture. In fact, many of them are effectively doing that today. The issue in many cases today is the stuff that isn't on‑premise is this shadow IT that isn't necessarily being managed in a systematic way.
Joe:  Definitely, for many organizations, particularly larger enterprise organizations, it's going to have to be a hybrid model. They're not going to be able to entirely run their business in the public cloud like startups or many small businesses may do today. They need to be able to evolve at their own pace. I think Red Hat is uniquely positioned to help them do that with not only our PaaS offerings but our hybrid cloud approach in general. That combines private on‑premise cloud deployment with what folks can run on the public cloud providers like Amazon and others. I think we have a great story there.
Gordon:  We should also mention to our listeners. This is all open‑source. There's a community version of this, OpenShift Origin. Of course, we do still have our hosted offering, which is probably the easiest way if somebody just wants to get a sense of what this OpenShift thing is about. Just go to, sign up for a free account, and give it a try.
Joe:  In fact, you've hit on a number of things there that really make us excited about what's going on here on the OpenShift side and in the Red Hat cloud business in general. It starts with the fact that Red Hat is built on an open‑source model and has proven that they can make that successful in the enterprise. Like all of our other products, OpenShift is based on an upstream open‑source community, which is OpenShift Origin. All of the source code for our PaaS platform is freely available on GitHub, Apache 2.0 license. We're building a community of contributors that are helping us build the features and the functionality that we need to drive this platform forward. Then we take that in OpenShift Enterprise and we harden it and commercialize that for enterprise distribution.
Again, this is something that enterprises need because what we're going to do in OpenShift Enterprise is, we're going to handle not only support but things like managing security updates, patches, compatibility from one release to the next, binary compatibility and stability that you don't always get in open‑source upstream communities because there the focus is on innovation.
Again, just like we combined the innovation of Fedora with the enterprise nature of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, we do the same thing across all our products. It's no different in PaaS. The one difference in OpenShift is we have a third leg of that stool, which is the OpenShift Online service, which is also based on this OpenShift Origin open‑source platform. That's really important.
It also all runs on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which is important for a couple of reasons. It's a hardened platform that businesses trust to run their most critical applications, but it's also something that administrators are familiar with. We're trying to take those administrators and help them evolve their RHEL infrastructure, their Linux infrastructure into a cloud infrastructure with OpenShift. Again, that's something we're very excited about.
Gordon:  One of the interesting things about having had the OpenShift Online service here is that it has given our engineers a lot of good experience at what's needed to scale up a Platform-as-a-Service here and put the security policies in place, the cgroups policies, to get multi‑tenant performance so that you don't have resource hogs. It's given us this platform to test scalability that I'm not sure we've ever quite had before.
Joe:  Yeah, it is one of the challenges in enterprise software development. You never quite get to run the stuff at the same scale that your customers do. I've been a product manager for almost 15 years, and I've seen this first‑hand. You can test it in the lab, you can test it with your QA organization, but where it's really going to be tested at scale is when it goes out to your customer base. This was a unique thing about OpenShift. Before we shipped the 1.0 GA version, we ran our OpenShift Online service at scale for over 18 months. At this point, we've seen quite a bit there. When you launch an online service and you open it up to the world with just an email address to sign up, you get some very interesting applications. Sometimes you get some very malicious applications. You get all sorts of requests from across the spectrum and so forth.
Although our sales team would have liked us to release products sooner, I think it was a necessary step to get us to where we are today. What we learned about security, what we learned about multi‑tenancy...
Again, we run the online service on Amazon, so we're paying the bill for all those apps that we're running there free of charge. Multi‑tenancy density is very important because we want to manage our own spend even as we're providing this service to end customers. We learned a lot about that and then learned a lot about the different features, as you mentioned earlier.
Developers don't just want a single‑language PaaS, they wanted different languages. We started out with Java, Ruby and PHP, added things like Node.JS, Python and so forth, and continue to explore adding different capabilities.
I think you'll see that when you come to OpenShift Enterprise, a lot of that experience has made its way into the product. As we look forward, we're going to be launching the commercial version of our online service later this year. I think you'll see it's reflected there as well
Gordon:  Great. Thank you, Joe, and thank you all for listening. As I say, we've got a lot of good OpenShift material out there. Check out Sign up for an account. There are also all kinds of how‑to guides and videos and other types of blog posts and what have you there. It's a product that's easy to get a really good idea of what it's about without having to do a big install on‑site. Again, thank you, Joe. Thank you, everyone.

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