All Things Open interview with Burr Sutter, Red Hat

How the Internet of Things will change the way we think

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Red Hat product manager Burr Sutter, Java Champion, always seems to find himself in a space of cutting edge innovation. It's no surprise that he is one of the mad geniuses behind the show-stopping on-stage demos at Red Hat's annual Summit.

At All Things Open this year, Burr will highlight technology that links the physical world to the Internet and showcase how the Internet of Things (IoT) will change the way we think. Hopefully his talk will inspire you to not only figure out where to start, but also to do your own awesome things.

I got a chance to talk to Burr to find out a little more about what inspires him.

So, the Internet of Things. It sounds like it might be a buzzword, and we hear a lot about it. What should we know about this space? What could it mean for the future of technology?

It is definitely a buzzword and at the peak of inflated expectations, according to the Gartner Hype Curve. With that said, there has been an explosion of innovation in terms of tiny sensors, battery-friendly wireless protocols and inexpensive, developer-friendly prototyping boards. It means we can literally interact with the physical world through our software.

What role does open source play? Is open source a critical element?

Open source is already playing a very critical role. If you monitor Kickstarter for just a month, you will see numerous "startups" offering new IoT-focused hardware based on open source software and (in some cases) open source firmware.

Personally, I am happy to give a lot of the credit to the Arduino team—open source hardware and software—allowing anybody to build their first intelligent and connected sensor or actuator.

Here are some examples of Kickstarters that I have backed:

What keeps you motivated and passionate about your job? What are you working on now?

I love learning and exploring, and I grow bored easily. I am particularly passionate about finding ways to make developers more powerful and more productive. I try to review many of the technologies that might land on the Thought Works Tech Radar or Gartner Hype Cycle through that lenses of power and productivity. At this time, I am very much focused on making DevOps and CI/CD demonstrable and consumable by the average IT person.

The team during the middleware keynote at Red Hat Summit had an incredibly compelling demo. Give us a behind the scenes scoop on that. What does it take to create something of that magnitude? Why was it worth the effort?

In 2014, I begin looking for a way to illustrate an industrial IoT use case scenario that fit within the confines of a developer conference. At the 2014 All Things Open, I spent time with two different folks discussing wearable technology and the concept of being able to track movement of physical things in a confined space. We came up with the idea of using Bluetooth Low Energy and the Gimbal beacon.

Was it worth it? The 2015 demo is actually the fifth "big demo" we have executed and each one is a major undertaking. While there is huge value to the audience, the ability to see something previously unseen like launching 1026 web servers live on stage, there is even greater value to our organization as it focuses us on delivering a multi-product demonstration of capabilities.

What can we expect at your All Things Open talk?

We will use JavaScript to touch the physical world—I have several of sensors and actuators integrated into my live demonstrations. My focus is on enterprise/industrial use cases where we can connect enterprise systems to real-time sensor feeds.

All Things Open
Speaker Interview

This article is part of the All Things Open Speaker Interview series. All Things Open is a conference exploring open source, open tech, and the open web in the enterprise.

About the author

Jen Krieger - Jen Krieger is Chief Agile Architect at Red Hat. Most of her 20+ year career has been in software development representing many roles throughout the waterfall and agile lifecycles. At Red Hat, she led a department-wide DevOps movement focusing on CI/CD best practices. Most recently, she worked with with the Project Atomic & OpenShift teams. Now Jen is guiding teams across the company into agility in a way that respects and supports Red Hat's commitment to Open Source.