Red Hat’s Ian Hood: ‘Digital transformation requires a change of mindset’


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Ian Hood. Image: Red Hat

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Digital transformation requires more wholesale change than some industry leaders may assume, as Red Hat chief technologist Ian Hood explains.

Ian Hood is chief technologist at global services provider Red Hat. In his role, he acts as a strategic adviser to the company’s community of customers and partners. Prior to this, he was responsible for global service provider architecture at Cisco.

Here, Hood discusses the security implications of emerging technologies such as IoT and how digital transformation necessitates a multi-faceted approach. 

‘The key to digital transformation is not just about technology evolution – it requires a wholesale change of mindset from organisations’
– IAN HOOD

Tell me about your own role and your responsibilities in driving tech strategy?

I am chief technologist for Red Hat, a provider of open source technologies. I work closely with our service provider customers around the world to provide guidance and insight into solving key business challenges with innovative open source technologies.

As part of this, I help customers evolve and expand their network, data and applications platforms with software-defined, cloud-native solutions, all with the aim of accelerating innovation in our customers’ mobile, business, consumer and media service offerings.

Are you spearheading any major product/IT initiatives you can tell us about?

The key technology initiatives that I am involved with are related to evolving mobile infrastructure to accelerate deployments of 5G/edge infrastructure. In particular, these deployments are for telehealth, industrial IoT applications and machine-enhanced human learning applications.

Many of the service providers we support are engaged in this effort. We help them balance 5G developments and the expansion of their mobile infrastructure with the creation of innovative enterprise edge, IoT, smart city and telehealth applications. It’s great to be working on projects that are helping to improve our quality of life around the world.

How big is your team? Do you outsource where possible?

I work on our global service provider team, which is a dedicated vertical focus for the telecommunications industry within Red Hat. We coordinate our efforts across our regional field teams and with our product and partner engineering teams, to ensure accelerated innovation of our open platforms and software modernisation tools.

When it comes to software development, we have an upstream-first model, which begins in the open source community, made up of thousands of contributors around the globe from all different kinds of organisations. In this way, we get to tap the ideas and minds of a community way beyond Red Hat.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation and how are you addressing it?

The key to digital transformation is not just about technology evolution – it requires a wholesale change of mindset from organisations, who need to think less like banks, car manufacturers and telecommunications companies, and more like software application companies. They need to think about how they can make the most of their core competencies and unique insights, but also identify areas where they must adapt and change.

Companies can set high goals and achieve success quickly in small beachheads. Technology and tools will of course help you get there, but people and processes are just as important.

Red Hat Open Innovation Labs was set up on this premise in 2016 to provide immersive residencies for customers to learn how to integrate people, methodology and technology to solve business challenges. Red Hat’s consulting teams help companies embrace agile working methods and open source technologies in order to become more efficient, collaborative and user-centric, whether working on creative new digital applications or modernisation initiatives, such as moving a monolithic application to a modern microservices architecture.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world and your industry specifically?

I am particularly excited about how artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) can be applied to data streams and telemetry to change how businesses operate and deal with customers. We are starting to see this take shape across industries, for example improving healthcare in hospitals and clinics, and enabling new customer experiences in transport, finance and manufacturing. 5G and edge computing technologies play a central role here in enabling internet connectivity on a huge scale.

These developments will unlock new capabilities and use cases for communications service providers that will challenge what we imagine is possible. With software-defined infrastructure as a basis, cloud-native applications can be deployed at the edge of 5G networks and enable AI/ML capabilities to bring new and enhanced services and quality of life to people all over the world, in urban centres and beyond.

In terms of security, what are your thoughts on how we can better protect data?

With next generation networks and hybrid cloud architectures, we will face many of the same security challenges that large distributed networks already do, such as encryption, DDoS, privacy, identity and role-based access.

Additionally, the growth of IoT and MEC (multi-access edge computing) means there will be significantly more endpoints with systems to secure, from our homes to our farms to our oceans.

The key is to make security a central consideration from the outset of any product or software development, right through the design process and ongoing. This must cover the full supply chain from the underlying operating software to the network connectivity across physical and virtual elements; from mobile endpoints to business applications hosted in the public cloud.

It must extend across physical security, encryption mechanisms, user and device authentication, software vulnerability scans, and automation of audits and logging activities to respond and recover from breaches. Measures like role-based access control for application users, and SSL (secure sockets layer) to encrypt the application as it is created can help keep data secure along its journey.

Organisation-wide commitment to security is needed, as well as the establishment of clear, easily replicable best practice and guidelines for risk management, governance and accountability. The 5G-MEC-IoT environment carries shared risk for service providers, enterprise owners and technology vendors, and it is incumbent on all of us to maintain the highest degrees of confidentiality, integrity and availability of systems and infrastructure. 

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