Thought Leaders in Cloud - Krishnan Subramanian, Red Hat


Thought Leaders in Cloud is a series where we get you the insights from the most influential leaders of the cloud computing world. We start this series with an exclusive interview with Krishnan Subramanian (@Krishnan) from Red Hat.

Tell us about your role at Red Hat

I am Director for OpenShift strategy at Red Hat. I help the team in terms of strategy and also advocate PaaS through thought leadership. I write about topics related to PaaS and Cloud at AllThingsPlatform and Information Week.

Many industry analysts have written-off PaaS saying it’s dead. What’s your take?

They are wrong. Not just it is alive but it is gaining tremendous traction. In the last year itself, we saw Red Hat and few other companies publicly announce their customers using PaaS. PaaS is not just being used in the Dev/Test environments but we are seeing more and more organizations using PaaS for their production needs. Today, PaaS is where AWS (and IaaS in general) was in the year 2010. Writing a premature obituary before customers realizing the value offered by PaaS will only hurt the industry than anything else. I have written an article explaining one possible source of confusion in the industry. In spite of naysayers, I am confident that PaaS is going to be successful because developers are the kingmakers in the future and a layer of cloud stack empowering them to be productive is going to play a key role in such a future.

OpenShift has gone through many transformations. What’s the current state of OpenShift?

After starting out as an online service, OpenShift now comes in three flavors. We have the upstream open source community version called OpenShift Origin. This is where all the code contributed to OpenShift is merged to the main trunk. There is OpenShift Online, which is the hosted version of OpenShift much like Heroku and Google App Engine. We also offer OpenShift Enterprise, which is battle-hardened version suitable for enterprise customers to run on their data centers.

Cloud Foundry has a DevOps tools called BOSH to deploy and manage the installation. What tool is preferred to deploy OpenShift in production?

OpenShift runs on RHEL. So you can install on any infrastructure or IaaS where RHEL (or one of the compatible operating systems like CentOS and Fedora) can run. RHEL dependency is needed to ensure that OpenShift takes advantage of the security isolation offered by SELinux. In short, you can install OpenShift across multiple infrastructure platforms easily by taking advantage of tools like Puppet and Chef. Recently, there are efforts to make oo-install as an easy tool to install OpenShift on different deployment scenarios.

Krishnan Subramanian, Red Hat

Do you think Private PaaS has seen better adoption than the public cloud variant?

Definitely for the time being. Enterprises are still skeptical about public clouds and most of the early public PaaS offerings were too restrictive for enterprise needs. Modern enterprise PaaS offerings that can be installed on-premise helps enterprise IT offer a service similar to public PaaS for enterprise developers.

Does Private PaaS deployment present an opportunity for System Integrators? What kind of customization goes into an enterprise PaaS deployment?

Not all Private PaaS are the same. However, Private PaaS offerings with open architecture like OpenShift allows easy customization to meet the needs of enterprise customers. I see a great opportunity for system integrators here. Also, such platforms with open architecture can allow system integrators to build vertical PaaS offerings catering to specific verticals.

How do you see Red Hat leveraging the combination of OpenStack and OpenShift? 

Both the OpenShift and OpenStack teams at Red Hat work together to offer a robust PaaS offering on top of the flexible OpenStack infrastructure. We are working with the OpenStack community to make sure there are hooks to make these two platforms work seamlessly with each other. Both teams are working hard on the OpenShift integration with OpenStack Heat. Enterprises are going to like OpenShift on top of OpenStack in the coming years.

OpenShift is still an effort primarily driven by Red Hat. How do you plan to involve the community and build an ecosystem around it?

We are seeing increasing traction in the OpenShift community. You will see Red Hat working more and more with the community empowering them to contribute to OpenShift in a typical open source fashion. The fact that a competitor in PaaS space, Jelastic, has embraced OpenShift’s Cartridge format on their platform speaks volumes about our approach to supporting an open community. We may not be making lots of noise but we are definitely advancing openness. Red Hat is the only company with more than Billion dollars in market cap while religiously sticking to its open source roots. The space is new and you will see a larger community around OpenShift in the coming years.

How will the raise of containers like Docker impact PaaS?

I would say it is already impacting. We are seeing more and more PaaS offerings with a container like model underneath (See this Information Week article for my take on two flavors of PaaS). Docker has tremendous momentum and Red Hat sees Docker as the right way to standardize on containers and started supporting their open source efforts few months back. We have started our work to implement Docker on OpenShift and should be available in the future. It is going to completely alter the PaaS space because now we are facing a future where application portability on PaaS can be taken for granted.

How do you see PaaS in 2014?

So far, PaaS was on the hype phase and 2013 saw some large-scale adoption of PaaS by enterprises. 2014 is going to be the year when we will be hearing more and more enterprise stories about how they are taking advantage of PaaS for their production needs. It is going to be a very exciting year for PaaS in spite of naysayers.

We thank Krish for sharing the insights on OpenShift. Stay tuned for more interesting conversations with the thought leaders in cloud!