Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst on the impact of cloud and mobile

Where the cloud is winning, and where it isn’t. Plus, how mobile drives infrastructure demand.

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Last month, I wrote about what Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst had to say about applications finally overshadowing infrastructure. But the rise of apps is only one of the big changes roiling the IT landscape. Cloud computing has had an equally dramatic effect.

Has the cloud already won? Yes… and no

So I asked Whitehurst if the cloud had already won the war for IT infrastructure, but he gave me a more nuanced response than I expected: “I think there’s a new architecture combining computing and storage in an easily managed centralized data center,” he said. “Scaling out that architecture… That’s clearly winning.”

“What’s less clear,” he continued, “is whether the traditional enterprise-owned-and-managed data center on premise will serve that, or will it be the public cloud or something in between? That’s still far from resolved.”

See also: Is there a point where a private cloud is cheaper than the public cloud?

I figured that he was talking about things like security, compliance, reliability and the sheer difficulty in changing things in large enterprises, but it appears that pricing may play a role in the future of cloud computing. Despite lots of noise recently on continuing price drops from Google, Amazon, and others, it appears that cost remains a central cloud computing issue.

Whitehurst said he had recently talked to the CIO of a “very, very large bank” who was surprisingly underwhelmed by the pricing he got from cloud vendors.

The CIO told Whitehurst that he can do better running his own data centers because he has the very large scale required to do that.

Put it all together, Whitehurst concluded, and the cloud model is winning, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will always take the form of the public cloud, the private cloud, or something in between.

Mobile meets infrastructure

Of course, mobility is yet another huge trend in technology, so I asked Whitehurst about how the shift to mobile was affecting IT infrastructure choices.

Mobile devices also have less power than fat desktop clients, Whitehurst said, so they often demand more from the data center. “It’s not that traditional enterprise apps” like ERP are going away, he added. They’re still growing along with corporate headcount. “But mobile apps are growing exponentially…demanding that the infrastructure be scaled out to cope with it.”  

Using a formula I hadn’t heard before, Whitehurst said that every dozen or so new mobile devices drive the need for a new server, somewhere. I asked whether some devices—like the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus—have a bigger effect than others. “As new devices come online they drive usage and the demand for cloud apps,” Whitehurst said, which in turn drives demand for cloud infrastructure. “But we haven’t tried to quantify that.”

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