The New Generation of Engineers: Chris Gray, Red Hat
At Red Hat, Chris Gray has global responsibility for strategic partner initiatives and worldwide sales within the embedded and Internet of Things markets. Chris has led the global expansion of Red Hat's Embedded and Internet of Things business in more than twenty countries and continues to lead Red Hat's mission as the open source leader in embedded and intelligent systems solutions. Chris graduated with distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy with a degree in Computer Science, earned a Masters in Engineering Management from Old Dominion University, and is a Department of Energy certified nuclear engineer.
What got you interested in electronics and the embedded engineering space?
I have always been interested in the embedded market, but the decision to engage professionally was primarily driven by our customers. Red Hat customers were coming to us asking how they could leverage the value of Red Hat in their embedded solutions, and their innovative ideas appealed greatly to me. The idea of using embedded technology to create unique and innovative business models is fascinating and will only continue to accelerate as we find even more ways to collect data from the world around us.
How have you turned that experience or motivation into a successful career-to-date, and what are the key factors that have enabled success so early on in your career?
Red Hat's history within the embedded market actually goes back more than 10 years, but it had been one of the best-kept secrets at our company. Even with very little awareness of our embedded program, I was seeing our best customers finding incredibly unique ways to use our technologies to solve truly impactful business problems. I felt that this was a huge opportunity for Red Hat to help our customers transition from using technology to support the business to using technology to drive the business.
Red Hat Embedded was essentially a startup, and in any new business, I believe you must have the ability to leverage limited resources to solve your customers' most critical problems first. Nothing is ever as smooth as you would like, but if you are passionate about what you are doing, put your customers first, and surround yourself with great people, success follows.
Given your area of expertise, what have been the greatest challenges and/or breakthroughs during your time in the industry?
The traditional embedded industry is undergoing a transformation in which it is being smashed together with the traditional enterprise datacenter. It is no longer enough to simply have a device that runs reliably. It must be secure. It has to be manageable. It has to communicate with the datacenter. It also has to communicate with other devices, many of them legacy devices. In short, interoperability is becoming paramount.
This level of required interoperability is something that Red Hat has seen within the datacenter for many years, but due to the connectivity of embedded devices, our industry has to figure it out ourselves... yesterday.
What has been the single most influential trend to come out of your generation of embedded industry professionals? What do you see as the most disruptive trend or technology over the next 5-10 years?
The world's view of the embedded industry and its potential have been forever changed through the connection of distributed devices. Technological advancements in miniaturization, wireless networks, and data analytics are now allowing machine-to-machine (M2M) communications to benefit from the same power and community that the Internet provided to people. This connectivity is at the core of what we are now calling the Internet of Things (IoT).
In the future, the number of use cases for the IoT will only continue to exponentially increase. This increase will lead to everything from bandwidth limitations to deeper security concerns to increased regulatory requirements, and that will force companies to make hard decisions on which data they are transmitting and how they are transmitting it. Companies will have to find ways to perform more analysis and take action closer to the edge of the so that transmission costs, storage requirements, and security concerns can be minimized. This will drive the continued emergence of an intelligent controller or gateway tier, which will be able to tactically collect, analyze, and take action on data while only sending strategic analysis results to the datacenter.
What advice would you offer the next generation of engineers?
Don't let technology limit your vision.
When you consider the Internet of Things, we truly have the ability to change the world and the way we interact with it. It is easy to sit back and think "If only I had…" but we can no longer allow that to impede our thinking. Technology has now reached the point where if we can dream it, we can find a way to make it happen.