November 13, 2013

Live From SUSECon: SUSE Focused on Cloud

The cloud is here to stay, and wise tech vendors are investing significant resources in developing and improving cloud technologies. That's the biggest message at SUSECon. Developing for the cloud affects the entire computing stack from end to end: hardware, operating system, servers, networking, applications, all user-facing endpoints, and development. The last giant game-changer was the World Wide Web. The cloud is the next one.

tux at SUSEConRalf Flaxa, Vice President of Engineering for SUSE, is always looking ahead, and his crystal ball says "cloud". SUSE Enterprise Linux 12 is going to be very different from 11, with a new code base and a whole lot of cloud.

RememberĀ systemd, the new Linux init system that is replacing the old SysV init? Systemd doesn't make all that much sense for simple servers and desktop systems, but it makes great sense for the cloud. Why? Two words: dynamic and parallel.

The cloud is all about fluidity, about allocating pools of resources flexibly and quickly on the server side, and about connecting and disconnecting painlessly from network resources for clients. So a static init system is hopeless for that sort of environment, but a dynamic init system that runs all the time, and that can respond simultaneously to multiple demands is just what the cloud doctor ordered.

Flaxa also discussed the need for a new networking stack that is similarly dynamic and automatic. Networking is already nearly-unmanageably complex and an always-moving target, so even the most brilliant network admin is going to have to bid farewell to managing the datacenter with shell scripts, because it will not be efficient or scalable.

We're going to need dynamic network management, and one tool for this that's generating buzz isĀ Wicked. I know, it's another annoying nerd name that is too close to wicd, and it's a common word that makes a Web search darned near impossible. Those shortcomings aside, it's an entirely new intelligent networking framework that aims to automate Linux networking, and make it responsive and self-managing. You'll hear more about this in a day or two.

Obstacles to Cloud Adoption

SUSECon opening day keynoteFlaxa said that cloud uptake by businesses is slower than tech vendors expected. There are a number of hurdles: overhauling business processes, changing development methodologies, and perhaps the biggest hurdle of all, changing mindsets. Traditionally, when a business unit (such as a dev team) wants some new resources they have to put in a requisition and wait for it to negotiate the bureauracy. It can take several weeks to learn if they'll get anything. Now you and I know that with a proper cloud backend all it takes is a couple of clicks, and it can even be self-service. Both notions are quite foreign to a lot of business managers. Which does not make them bad managers, because any disruptive change has to be looked at very carefully. But the clock is ticking and it's inevitable.

So managers and planners are warming up to the idea, and the main driver of cloud adoption is private clouds. Network latency and security and privacy concerns are large obstacles to any serious use of public clouds, and managers like to keep mission-critical workloads in-house. However, public clouds are great extensions of private clouds for special events and temporary extra capacity.

Consequently, Nils Brauckmann, President and General Manager for SUSE, placed a lot of emphasis in his keynote today on SUSE's strengths in meeting these concerns and challenges. SUSE invests a lot of resources in talking to customers and partners, and in collaborating with partners to deliver what customers want. For example SAP and IBM are key partners; SAP is huge all over the world in enterprise software, and of course IBM is a key hardware vendor that has invested billions in Linux.

No single company can deliver and support everything the enterprise needs. These are things that Linux pros should be looking at for career options. We're at the bare beginnings of a giant Linux growth curve, and the technologies are going to get more complex and require higher levels of skills. Linux and FOSS are perfectly-positioned to meet these ever-more demanding requirements because of the agility of an open software ecosystem. Proprietary software vendors haven't a prayer of keeping up. To paraphrase Horace Greely, Go Tux young nerd!