Red Hat’s moves towards DevOps and Node.js analysed

Picture credit: "Red Hat cubes", by "Jared Smith", used under CC BY NC ND

Over the past few weeks, enterprise tech giant Red Hat has made announcements which makes clear the path in which the firm is travelling. The company recently acquired IT automation provider Ansible, as well as announcing membership of the Node.js Foundation as a platinum member, alongside companies such as IBM, Intel, and Microsoft among others.

The former represents a continued move towards providing DevOps capabilities for its customers, accelerating application development and smoothing out problems for the line of business. The latter is attacking a similar goal through a different method, optimising application throughput for the real-time web.

Either way, it all points to getting the job done more quickly without affecting quality – and Node.js has been on Red Hat’s radar for some time. It was one of the cornerstones of the firm buying mobile backend provider FeedHenry last year – both sides having a similar vision in this regard – with general manager of middleware Mike Piech telling this reporter Node.js was “probably the fastest growing new non-Java technology on the enterprise front... [which] was very interesting and exciting for us.”

The majority of love for Node.js is based around its reliance on JavaScript, which was named by TIOBE as the top programming language of 2014 and currently sits in eighth position in the most popular programming languages, up from 12th this time last year. Micheal O’Foghlu, CTO of Red Hat Mobile and formerly CTO at FeedHenry, argues Node.js is coming into the mainstream – and the company was ahead of the curve.

“We’ve had a Node.js based product that’s been deployed in the enterprise since 2011,” he explains. “Just because we had a version that was on version 0.012 did not mean that it wasn’t mature and wasn’t ready for the enterprise. Node’s maturity is based on how long enterprises have been using it, and they’ve been using Node for quite some time.”

With regards to the Ansible acquisition, the IT automation and greater speed and simplicity is already known, but Alessandro Perilli, general manager of cloud management strategy at Red Hat, notes Ansible’s simple layout, modular structure and popularity among others made it the obvious choice.

“We see in Ansible a perfect alignment with the core principles that shape Red Hat’s management, both at the product level and at the portfolio level,” he wrote in a company blog post. “At the product level, Ansible matches Red Hat’s desire to deliver a frictionless design and a modular architecture through open development.”

Growth of Node.js continues apace, although the movement has undertaken a few changes. The Node.js Foundation came about as a way to ‘heal the split’ between the original Node community, spearheaded by Joyent, and io.js, who reunited this year, code merge and all, after the latter formed a faction having been dispirited by the progress of Node.js.

The Foundation needed a way to govern itself, looking towards the Linux equivalent for inspiration, and as Red Hat was already a strong player in the Linux Foundation, their opinion was sought and it snowballed from there. “We felt we were already strong members of the Node community,” O’Foghlu explains. “Now it was being opened up to a more open contribution model for the Node core, it made sense for us to join in, given Red Hat’s own track record of leadership in open source communities.”

Yet he adds: “We are in no sense coming in to try to dictate and change the direction of the community – infact, the Node Foundation board members have an explicit remit to get out of the way of the technical decisions and to allow those decisions to be made bottom-up by the actual contributing community themselves.”

O’Foghlu notes the development is coming through the supporting ecosystem around core Node modules, particularly the Node Package Manager because of its flexibility and lightweight approach. The Node module community has grown to nearly 190,000 modules across five years. He notes startups and enterprises alike are adopting Node.js.

“Smaller companies adopting Node are likely to be newer companies,” he explains. “Older, well established SMEs tend to be even more conservative than large enterprises, so it will probably take time for SMEs to adopt it.”

Earlier this year, research conducted by Red Hat on behalf of Enterprise AppsTech found a mixed response in terms of how DevOps relates to mobility. 26% of the 114 global Red Hat customers surveyed said they were using DevOps to support mobility projects, while one in five (21%) said they didn’t understand the term. While this area may still be nascent, in terms of IT infrastructure the path is clear; and it’s one you’d expect Red Hat to continue pushing for the foreseeable future.

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