momius - Fotolia

Red Hat exec talks open source strategies, innovation and VMware

In this Q&A, Red Hat's Craig Muzilla explains the ideas behind the company's open source strategy, the value of the approach and what happened to virtual machines.

Red Hat has become, more or less, a trusted broker for organizations interested in taking advantage of open source strategies. Even if Red Hat acquires a company's technology through traditional methods, that technology will find its way into the open source community through Red Hat.

But how does a company like Red Hat make a decision to either work with a company through open source or acquire it? And what kind of effect is open source having on the market and, in particular, the players still taking a mainly proprietary approach?

In this Q&A, Craig Muzilla, senior vice president of Red Hat's application platforms business group, explains Red Hat's philosophies around open source and how it spurs broad-based innovation. He also discusses how Red Hat views technologies like containers in contrast to virtual machines and what that means in terms of competition with vendors like VMware.

It seems like companies will either take an acquisition strategy or an open source strategy when it comes to incorporating another. I know that Red Hat has done both, so how does Red Hat make a decision about acquiring a company versus incorporating the technology through open source?

Craig Muzilla: We're an open source company first and always will be. And part of the principles that we use is that we are always looking for the strongest, most popular and most innovative open source communities.

Craig Muzilla, senior vice president of Red Hat's application platforms business groupCraig Muzilla

I'll give OpenShift as an example. OpenShift was started by us. We did a small acquisition to sort of bootstrap it, and then we began doing some projects. So, when we started creating OpenShift, we created projects, but they were all our projects for doing the image building now sort of referred to as containers, as well as things like orchestration.

We saw two communities that started to really take off. [First was] the OCI, Linux container community that was started by Docker originally ... it was extremely innovative, and it became extremely popular. And it was a very collaborative community in the OCI, the Open Container Initiative, which is the community for that, right? So, we said, 'We need to do that.'

Secondly, Kubernetes. Kubernetes was created by Google, and it immediately drew the attention of many companies and contributors. Now, there are over a thousand contributors. So, we decided to use Kubernetes, and that's how OpenShift transformed. We transformed OpenShift from those original communities to communities that were driving the industry, and we got behind those communities and rewrote OpenShift.

But to answer the second part of your question, when do we do acquisitions? Generally, we do an acquisition generally when there is no strong open source option in the marketplace. So, [with] API management, there were a couple little open source things going on, [and] we actually had one that we started ourselves. But we felt that doing an acquisition would strengthen our ability in API management, so we acquired 3scale. But we take all of anything we acquire, including proprietary companies, and we turn them into open source projects after we acquire them.  

There's a lot of talk about open source being where innovation is happening and that the proprietary software approach's time might be limited. What do you think about that?

I'd say most of the broad-based innovation taking place today starts with open source.
Craig Muzillasenior vice president of Red Hat's application platforms business group

Muzilla: Any cloud technology is, for the most part, built on Linux. All of the technologies that we've talked about that are driving innovation, like containers, are built on Linux. Kubernetes was built with Linux ... any data and data management technologies, whether you're talking about NoSQL solutions like Mongo, or about Hadoop, Spark or Flint ... these are all open source projects.

So, even as things turn into 'products by vendors' or services through cloud, they're generally started with some sort of open source community. The only place where I think there's innovation going on [outside open source] would be some more niche areas, vertical applications where it just doesn't lend itself to broad open source contribution in communities. But I'd say most of the broad-based innovation taking place today starts with open source

As stuff is shifting more toward favoring a container approach versus a virtual machine approach, and you continue to ramp up work on containers, do you still consider VMware a big competitor? 

Muzilla: Certainly, VMware is a competitor, but I think their relevance in a marketplace has been declining. Everyone will continue to use virtual machines sometime and somewhere; you'll have OpenStack implementations for private cloud infrastructure using virtual machines and virtual machine management.

So, it doesn't go away, but container technology and doing abstraction at the app level has sort of raised the bar. So, you're also looking at using that container technology in clouds and working at cloud workloads, and not necessarily managing your own physical or virtualized environment. So, yes, VMware is still out in the marketplace [and] they're still important, but I don't think they have quite the dominance they once had. 

Next Steps

Learn more about and Red Hat's Container Health Index    

Discover how open source goes beyond software and into our lives

Test your knowledge on OpenStack deployment with this quiz

Dig Deeper on Application modernization