Red Hat Chief Speaks Out

At LinuxWorld, Red Hat CTO Michael Tiemann talks about the future of Linux and critical questions facing the enterprise.

NEW YORK—Proprietary software applications often result in bad architecture, which locks in users and is a cause for concern, Red Hat chief technology officer Michael Tiemann told delegates listening to his keynote here at the LinuxWorld conference Wednesday.

"The limitations in software force unnatural thinking and result in bad architecture. A lack of competition has led to vendor intransigence," he said.

Bad software and architecture has cost those companies in the S&P index between 16 percent and 45 percent of their bottom line. "We dont know what these companies could have earned if they had access to good software and sound architectures," he said.

Tiemann said there are several critical questions facing the enterprise, including the question of time-to-market, the range of new applications, the effective benefit of new technologies and risk mitigation.

Jeffrey Birnbaum, the managing director and global head of enterprise computing in the International Securities Division at Morgan Stanley, agreed. In early 2001 Morgan Stanley tasked its IT department to lower the cost of its computing environment.

In an effort to match its computing power to the environment, Morgan Stanley decided a scaled-out environment was the way to go. Fortunately, Birnbaum said, the architecture it had implemented in the mid-90s allowed it to take advantage of Linux on Intel and maintain a low cost infrastructure.

Morgan Stanley has four major hubs, in London, Hong Kong, Tokyo and New York, as well as a number of satellite offices and many applications. "Enterprise platform computing means, for us, any application on any box at any time. This means moving away from local installs. We want a data-less sever environment so we can do everything from the network," he said.

Morgan Stanleys goals for that platform were a high degree of automation, minimal operating system builds, hardware-independent operating system configurations, and that all data, programs and operating systems should reside on the network. The ability to distribute versions and patches globally, and effect all the dependent applications immediately, was also key, he said.

"Quick and easy installation and roll-back of versions and patches is also essential. A good architecture facilitates a quick time-to-market that is flexible and can run anything, anywhere and at any time, and also does not add costs every time new machines are added, Birnbaum said.

While the industrys current trend toward consolidation is a good thing in some cases, a good architecture lets new boxes be added "since that is what you are going to need to do," he said.

Tiemann said Red Hat was then tasked with putting this Morgan Stanley "theory" into practice, which it did. This meant that the common infrastructure had to be ubiquitous and applications had to be stateless, he said.

Enterprises are now increasingly insisting on open standards and retaining their power of choice. They are also demanding flexible solutions, he said. "Get serious about architecture and, when you do, you will find that Linux has no proprietary lock-in, offers full transparency, a collaborative development environment and commoditization, which expands the pie.

"The people on Wall Street know how to turn technology into dollars, and its fun working with them. Linux is not Unix. It has an open future and will not collapse the way Unix did under its own proprietary weight," Tiemann said.