The future is open: Seizing the opportunity with open source
Several years ago, I delivered a keynote where I walked through a typical day doing many things we all might do on a given day. I withdrew money from an ATM; used the Internet and checked in on some of my social networks; made some online purchases; checked in for my upcoming flight; checked the stock market; and watched a movie. Each of these activities were powered by open source technologies. Back then, open source was popular and on the rise.
Today, open source is pervasive. Technology is evolving faster today than it has at any other point in human history and digital disruption is the norm. Open source is the driving force behind much of the technology innovation we see – all of the key mega-trends in technology are happening because of user participation. Through their contributions, each member of the open source community is helping to define the future of technology.
This also extends to how organizations and individuals now work. Open source – and the open source ethos of contribution, collaboration and agility – plays a critical role in enabling individuals to act. To adopt a culture of open innovation, organizations now start by creating the context for individuals to act and try new things rather than plan ahead and script everything out ahead of time. Through the collective action of extraordinary people willing to take risks and try new things, we’re seeing organizations achieve the innovative breakthroughs everyone is always chasing.
In the technology industry, open source is resulting in incredible innovations at an equally incredible rate. Specifically, I have been amazed by the rapid adoption of container technology by a vast array of companies that include some of the largest and most traditional organizations out there. Certainly, I have been optimistic about the promise of containers to revolutionize our approach to IT infrastructure. But the rate at which companies have embraced open source container technologies, and related technologies like Ansible, has quite simply blown me away. In years past, you just would not see companies put new technology into production this fast. What we’re witnessing in the industry is, in my view, unprecedented in that regard.
Consider what happened with virtualization. That took a decade or more before it went mainstream despite the promise of enormous cost savings. Today, we’re seeing many companies putting containers into production from day one.
The appeal of these emerging container platforms is that they cut two ways: they enable companies to cut costs and implementation times while simultaneously boosting the speed of innovation. The timeframes for putting in major enterprise-wide IT infrastructure projects used to be measured in weeks, months, and even years in some cases. Today, when modern and agile IT services are the norm, we count them in hours and minutes – a major reason why this technology has become so popular, so fast.
Another appealing aspect of containers is that while the technology itself isn’t simple – it’s actually quite sophisticated – it’s also extremely intuitive to use. While we might now take it for granted that even children can pick up a smartphone or tablet and begin using it right away without even the benefit of a manual or set of instructions, this is a groundbreaking development in the world of enterprise infrastructure. By making it dead simple to use and adopt, organizations are able to reap significant returns in their investment of time and resources. This focus on user experience is one I expect we’ll see as a continuing theme in enterprise technology, where, broadly speaking, there is significant opportunity for improvement across our industry.
Given the rapid adoption of containers we’re seeing, I believe that we might be looking at a sea change in the world of technology where we could soon be experiencing new feature velocity rates in areas like private and public clouds that we have not seen in our lifetimes.
There’s never been a more exciting time to be in the technology industry.
But as that evolution commences, it is worth noting the crucial role that we expect open source to play in supporting it. As containers open up limitless opportunities for applications inside an organization to interact with each other, it begs the question of how will organizations be able to maintain and support such a dynamic environment? If you have four million microservices talking to and updating each other on a rapid-fire basis, how do you monitor those interactions and perform application performance management? How do you diagnose issues when something goes wrong? In short, it will require a fundamental rethinking of all the technology and functions involved in running an application portfolio.
Organizations simply can’t rely on a proprietary piece of source code to manage their increasing multitude of application micro-services that are powering their critical business transactions. There are also hurdles to be cleared that we don’t even know about yet that will rise up as container adoption becomes even more mainstream. That’s why Red Hat is investing hard in the infrastructure behind the data and application control center of the future because we recognize how the adaptability of open source can play a critical role in this regard. We also continue to take leadership positions within open source communities to help drive the roadmaps that will help solve these problems and pain points organizations will soon face.
Over the past year, we’ve also seen how the open source approach to solving problems has continued to spread beyond the technology world to help combat some of our society’s thorniest issues. Examples include the open access to patient data movement, which is helping to diagnose and potentially cure life-threatening diseases. There’s also the open textbook initiative, which promises to kick-off new advances in the world of education. We’re even seeing the leaders in the development of artificial intelligence embrace an open source framework
It has also been encouraging to see how many types of organizations across the globe – from multinational insurance companies to leading business schools – have been inspired by the principles of The Open Organization. These business leaders have come to recognize and appreciate what we at Red Hat have been practicing for years: that by opening up their business, they can react faster and more effectively to the changes in the world around them. Even with this momentum, my hope is that more companies and industries will continue to see the value of opening up their approach to business in the coming years.
Across sectors, innovation happens because of open source. Contribution by contribution, individuals are changing the world, creating disruption, and working to solve problems that have stumped generations. Open innovation is not only present, it also represents our future.
The potential for collaboration is perhaps boundless, and I’m thrilled by the opportunity Red Hat has to be a steward for the open opportunity ahead.
This article is contributed by Jim Whitehurst, President and CEO, Red Hat