Is Red Hat ready for the Internet of Things?

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A recent Red Hat survey on mobile trends revealed that 70 percent of organizations plan to embrace the Internet of Things in the next 5 years. So where is Red Hat on the IoT stage?

To further understand Red Hat's IoT strategy, I reached out to the company's Senior Director of Product Marketing, Mark Coggin.

Q: Can you explain Red Hat's focus on mobile-cloud?

Coggin: First, it’s important to point out that this shift isn’t unique to Red Hat; the IT industry as a whole is moving from server-client to cloud-mobile. In the past year, Docker as a container format, container registries, and the growing interest in microservices have also fueled the change.

Q: Where does Red Hat’s cloud-mobile focus fit in the IoT world?

Coggin: From a general IoT perspective, a cloud-mobile strategy is essentially a necessity when you’re looking at IoT as we come to know it today. Client-server was an effective strategy in past years when devices were “dumber” (essentially slightly smarter sensors, for the most part), but the complexities of smart devices and servers at the edge require more sophisticated integration of networking, storage and management technologies, which cloud and mobile solutions provide. Client-server can fulfill these --needs to an extent, but the sheer complexity required makes it daunting, if not completely unfeasible for the modern enterprise to undertake.

Q: Can you explain Red Hat's IoT offering?

Coggin: For the organizations that are heavily interested in IoT, we offer a proven, powerful and secure operating platform that’s already in place in the vast majority of the Fortune 500. One of our IoT offerings is Red Hat Enterprise Linux, the world’s leading enterprise Linux platform, which can easily scale to meet IoT needs and provide all of the functionality required for cloud-mobile.

Q: Why isn't Red Hat actively marketing itself as an IoT platform provider? 

Coggin: We haven’t had to rely on renaming or rebranding our existing technology; Red Hat Enterprise Linux provides a powerful and effective platform for developing smart device networks, server-at-the-edge deployments and many other IoT implementations. We believe that IoT is in part about moving datacenter functionality to the network edge and other Red Hat products such as Red Hat JBoss Fuse (integration), Red Hat JBoss BRMS (rules), and Red Hat JBoss BPM Suite (process management) help make this feasible.

Q: Canonical’s Snappy Ubuntu Core is gaining wide adoption across industries - from drones to refrigerators. It also introduced new updating mechanism to keep such devices up-to-date all the time. Is Red Hat planning something similar?

Coggin: Our goal with our product portfolio is to make existing Red Hat solutions applicable across a wide range of deployment scenarios, physical, virtual, and cloud -- including IoT. As containers continue to take hold across the enterprise world and provide a new venue for IoT, we have focused significant efforts on providing container-centric solutions, including our recently launched Red Hat Enterprise Linux Atomic Host, which provides an operating system for Linux containers derived from a Red Hat Enterprise Linux foundation.

Q: What kind of organizations or markets are more receptive to IoT?

Coggin: Any industry or firm whose business embodies one or more of these attributes is a candidate for IoT:

  • Business that is heavily data driven
  • Implementation of a business model in an IT fabric including data, business logic, and applications
  • Rapid changes in business and competitive landscape requiring extreme agility
  • A business whose assets (human and capital) are highly distributed and mobile

Industries who match this pattern include transportation and logistics, manufacturing, hospitality, healthcare, energy, telecommunications, and, surprisingly, government. There appears to be no specific geographic propensity to IoT.

Q: I imagine that IoT will be heavily dominated by Linux and Open Source. What do you think makes it a particularly good fit?

Coggin: "Linux and open source in general are effectively the foundational elements upon which IoT will be (and is today) based. In short, you can’t have IoT without open source – the flexible, innovative, and transparent nature of open source code is what makes the vast opportunities within the Internet of Things possible.

Attempts to do this with proprietary code are typically cumbersome, expensive and, in mission-critical settings, incredibly risky; it’s akin to deploying a fleet of “smart” cars with their hoods welded shut. IoT needs open source to be successful, which is why you’re seeing such a dominant presence from the various Linux distros in not only IoT at the enterprise level, but also the scaled-down “maker movement” and various commercial/consumer drone applications."

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