Red Hat Summit Summary


Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

Jun 20, 2008 GMT
Jon maddog Hall

The Red Hat Summit (, held in Boston, Massachusetts, USA June 17th to 20th is over, but FUDcon ( goes on for at least one more day with a BarCamp at Boston University.
The Summit was a very well-planned and executed event held at the Hynes Convention center (where the FUDCon was also held). It started off with a Keynote by Jim Whitehurst, the CEO of Red Hat Software. Jim gave the impression of someone who "really got it". One of his more memorable statements was:
"We are leaders in Open is who we are and what we do."
He discussed a patent settlement that he said is "truly consistent with GPL, protecting all upstream and downstream developers..that is doing it in an open source way."
He also talked about a Red Hat initiative to create "Liberation fonts", a set of free and open fonts to allow for truly open documents that would all render the same because the fonts are "digitally equivalent".
I remember when it was announced that Jim was going to be the new CEO. Coming from Delta Airlines, people asked how an airline COO could possibly know anything about Free Software. Looking beyond his latest job in his resume, I saw a Harvard MBA, and (more importantly) a BS in Computer Science. During his talk, Jim made remarks about how he had pulled down the latest Fedora release and installed it on his laptop. Yes, I think that Red Hat has a CEO that "really gets it".
Next on the Keynote list was Dr. John Halamka, CIO of Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He started off by telling us he has a medical RFID chip implanted in his shoulder, so is often mistaken for a hose at the Home Depot checkout line. With a mixture of humor and statistics, he showed how the Health Community is working toward open record formats and standards so medical communities can share patient's records online.
Dr. Halamka estimated that 20,000,000 dollars a year is saved by Harvard Medical using edge servers and XML record interchange, but only 15% of the doctors in the USA use electronic health records. Part of this is because a doctor could spend 60,000 USD to buy "electronic health records", try to maintain the equipment and software themselves and therefore lose productivity. So Dr. Halamka is advocating "Software as a service" and providing that software and storage facilities to doctors in a secure fashion, for people who have to save health records sometimes as long as 30 years.
Dr. Halamka realizes there are issues, he told us that there were many things that "kept him up a night", but he does feel that managed health records could reduce the cost of medical services and bring better health care around the world.
The Summit was not all keynotes of course, and a lot of breakout sessions were technical. Because there were nine simultaneous tracks, I could not possibly go to all of them, but I did want to see the talk of an old friend Rik van Riel's, on the topic of "Why Computers are Getting Slower (and what we can do about it)". Rik has been a kernel engineer for a long time, originated and still maintains the "Linux Kernel Newbies" site on the Internet and is a true gentleman.
A lot of what Rik talked about was not really new to me. Yes, the hardware is getting faster, but needs growing faster than the hardware is improving.
FSCKing and restoring of files are taking too long. We need a file system checking program that can be done in parts of the file system, not just the whole thing, and a full restore might take so long that company could suffer real damage while the system is down performing the check.
He covered many advances that had been developed for the Linux kernel to help counterbalance the ever more demanding needs of SMP and memory utilization.
After the talks that day, IBM and Red Hat treated the attendees to a night at Fenway Park, sans the Red Sox who were out of town.....but still a good time taking tours of the baseball park and hearing stories of it.
Even later that night was a pub crawl, but yours truly bowed out of that and went to bed. The next day came early.
The first keynote of the second day was from another old friend, Brian Stevens, CTO of Red Hat. Speaking a mile a minute (Slow down a bit, Brian!) he talked about the way that commercial customers are finally beginning to understand the relationship between the community working on projects and how these projects fit into the enterprise. KVM was an example of community coming together with over 20 companies and the community working together to "replace the incumbent".
Another keynote that day was by Joel Cohen, Co-Creator of The Simpsons. Joel talked about collaboration, originality and how even bad ideas can often spark good ideas.
I then tried to get into two technical talks, but the "Cobbler" (provisioning Red Hat on hard metal or a virtualized machine) room was filled to overflowing and I could not get in. A talk on oVirt was also filled to overflowing, but this time I was smarter and entered at the end of the previous talk.
oVirt is a cross-platform management system for virtual machines. It uses libvirt, CIM and LDAP as standards
for virtualization, and is claimed to scale from 1 node to thousands. It has an integrated security policy and audit framework, as well as a set of APIs to manage various hypervisors.
Later that night there was another function hosted by IBM and Red Hat, high on the top of the Prudential Tower. From 52 floors up we got to see Boston "by air", and I showed a friend of mine from Germany many of the historic buildings.
The Summit for me was a combination of tech fest, business arena, and "old home week". I would definitely like to attend the next one.

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