For years, Red Hat has been the face of enterprise Linux and with it, one of the leaders in client-server computing, and while the company has clearly been shifting its focus over the last couple of years to cloud computing, it has been a company caught between two worlds. It appears that's about to change.
Red Hat isn't exiting the enterprise Linux business just yet, but earlier this week in a company blog post, CEO Jim Whitehurst made it clear that cloud computing was going to be the company's primary focus moving forward. Sure, he still talked about RHEL and called it "the best operating platform in the world," but even while he was praising one part of his business, he was making it clear that the transition was here.
The age of client-server computing is giving way to cloud and mobile and Red Hat wants to lead the way as enterprise computing makes this key transition from one computing era to another. "Right now, we're in the midst of a major shift from client-server to cloud-mobile. It's a once-every-twenty-years kind of change," Whitehurst wrote in the blog post.
He's right of course and even though it feels like kind a Duh! statement, we know that enterprise IT departments tend to move slowly when it comes to major changes. They don't quietly give up what they know for whatever new and shiny thing comes along, partly because they aren't comfortable with new(ish) things and partly because they have to be careful that they make smooth transitions. They can't afford to break things in the name of progress.
At this point, however it's clear that cloud and mobile aren't going away, and that when you take advantage of it and build or buy cloud and mobile tools designed for the enterprise, the sky isn't going to fall (if you'll pardon the expression) and you have a chance to help the organization react more quickly to shifting requirements, an increasingly important priority for organizations of all kinds.
Red Hat's announcement though is like a giant signal that it's OK to give up client-server computing and move onto the next era. Red Hat of course wants to be the one to lead you there, but they are hardly alone when it comes to cloud services or even OpenStack. There are a number of choices and ways to go about this as Whitehurst fully acknowledged in his blog post. "The competition is fierce, and companies will have several choices for their cloud needs," he wrote.
It's important to note though that just as Red Hat isn't making a clean cut from one era to another, client-server architecture isn't going to suddenly vanish tomorrow. It will live on in some organizations forever, just as we still have mainframes and mini computers operating inside many organizations today. They just aren't the primary form of computing anymore, and as we move forward, fewer organizations will be using client-server as the primary architecture.
As Whitehurst said it's a generational shift and it's happening right now. The client-server computing era is over. Red Hat has clearly recognized it. Have you?