Skip to main content

IBM and Red Hat are Redefining Hybrid Cloud

Chuck Bryan, David Parker, Alise Spence and Steve Roberson share their thoughts on what the aquisition means for both companies.

Cloud illustration on a red and blue background

When IBM announced its plans to purchase open-source maverick Red Hat for a record breaking $34 billion in 2018, the news was met with a mix of questions and excitement. The deal, which was finalized in July of this year, brings together IBM’s stalwart status in enterprise IT infrastructure with Red Hat’s cloud innovations. 

Although, as mergers sometimes do, that raised questions. The focus among them: “What will happen to workloads running on other Linux* distributions on Power Systems* hardware?” According to Steve Roberson, principal Linux offering manager for IBM, clients have nothing to worry about. 

“As an autonomous company under the IBM umbrella,
Red Hat will continue to work with all partners that have made them the successful and critical link to modern Linux workloads,” Roberson says. “The biggest mistake we could make would be to try to influence Red Hat to limit their work with other partners. Our overall success is now tied to their overall success.”

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. To answer some of the other questions readers have asked, IBM Systems magazine, Power Systems conducted a roundtable session of sorts with four people who are intimately involved with the merger efforts: Chuck Bryan, IBM Power Systems offering manager of hybrid multicloud and open-source solutions; David Parker, global partners and alliances for IBM at Red Hat; Alise Spence, offering manager for IBM Power Systems Cloud Solutions; and Roberson. Read on for a deep dive into just what the merger truly entails. 

IBM Systems magazine (ISM): Why is seamless hybrid cloud infrastructure important? 

Chuck Bryan (CB): It gives clients freedom, meaning they have the choice to run their applications anywhere they want: on-premises, in the IBM Cloud* or in their choice of public cloud. It makes them more productive, so clients are looking to build new applications to respond quickly to market needs. People are used to the traditional or monolithic software like we have in most cases today. You’ve got an application that’s really tied to the physical infrastructure with Red Hat, with OpenShift* and then with containers. We’re separating the application from the infrastructure, which means it can run anywhere. That’s the biggest difference.

Alise Spence (AS): By having a common fabric, it enables this concept of agility, rapidity or speed in terms of being able to rapidly allocate resources to whatever part of the business you need, to respond to changing economic or business trends. You now have a common set of tools and processes that your entire organization can operate in order to ensure that they’re getting the resources they need to drive the business forward. 

ISM: What is a true hybrid cloud? 

CB: We knew architecturally what we wanted to put together. We knew in order to have true hybrid cloud, we needed capabilities in public cloud as well as private cloud that have shared services across those environments. It isn’t hybrid just because you have a private cloud and a public cloud if there’s no sharing across that. 

ISM: Aside from delivering a hybrid multicloud platform, what other joint initiatives are on the horizon?

David Parker (DP): There’s an increase in time and energy being paid toward ensuring that the breadth of Red Hat’s portfolio is ready to operate in a supported fashion on the two other architectures that IBM develops, markets and sells. I suspect that there’ll be more energy put into ensuring that all of Red Hat’s offerings are supported on IBM’s Power* and IBM Z* architecture. I could see us strengthening our relationship so that our products run on the breadth of IBM’s hardware systems offerings as well as strengthening our relationship with the services business units within IBM.

AS: There’s a lot in terms of enhancing the integration capabilities between cloud providers so that we manifest this concept about seamless mobility between on-premises, off-premises and across multiple clouds.

ISM: Specifically, how do you foresee the Red Hat and IBM teams working together?

Steve Roberson: We have had a long productive partnership with Red Hat, and with them falling under the IBM umbrella, we expect our overall bond to grow even tighter. All of our Power servers will incorporate the available
Red Hat offerings as they will grow with us in major initiatives like artificial intelligence, cloud and in-memory databases.

CB: One of the first examples is with the multicloud management. We provide a set of capabilities with a product called Multicloud Manager. Red Hat has Ansible*, which helps automate cloud deployments. That’s a big part of where we’re coming together—automating all of the infrastructure, software and hardware for clients. The next piece is OpenShift itself, so the software that we’re putting on top of that automated infrastructure. Red Hat and Linux are the most popular development platform, so we’re bringing together the best of application development for Red Hat and IBM.

DP: I think IBM is positioned perfectly to help clients glean more business intelligence from their data. It’s going to help clients determine what their competitive advantage is by more than just that business intelligence and more business insights from their data. 

The average enterprise is doing business with seven different cloud partners and that can be kind of scary to a senior-level executive. IBM has industry expertise to help deliver this innovative technology, so clients glean the benefits sooner than later. IBM also has a reputation of being a trustworthy entity.  

ISM: How do you think Red Hat and IBM’s combined efforts will help accelerate the broader adoption of open source?

DP: IBM’s sheer presence around the globe and the number of customers that they currently have are dynamite prerequisites to accelerating the overall adoption of open-source software. The Red Hat account teams have developed “red” account plans. At the same time, I believe that IBM has “blue” account plans that were developed and will be executed by the IBM side to fuel its offerings. I believe that as these teams get together and they share their plans, they’ll come up with unified actions by way of good old-fashioned teamwork and collaboration.

ISM: On a more granular level, what does this mean for Power Systems shops?

SR: The IBM Power Systems platform will continue to build our solutions to take advantage of the expertise and client expectations all of our partners provide. In the world of Linux problems and solutions, our goal is to provide the best choice for the complete solution stack. Starting with the best in class infrastructure made up of our Power servers and building up to the solution that best solves the client pain point. As clients are choosing to move many of these problem-solving workloads into the cloud, we will strive to offer the best options for Power leveraging the cloud-based offerings from Red Hat.

CB: You’re going to develop these innovative, new applications but they need to connect to your back-end applications. The piece that I try to convey to our sellers and clients is what better platform to do that modernization work on than the one you’ve trusted and has been reliable for you to run your AIX* and IBM i applications for the last 10 to 20 years. That’s what we get starting from Red Hat Enterprise Linux running on POWER* to OpenShift. They provide that modernization environment for them to connect to their existing AIX and IBM i applications. 

AS: Red Hat brings to our existing enterprise accounts a simplified way for clients to introduce Linux into their existing Power environments in a way that they can be sure that Linux is supported and enterprise-grade. Many of our Power Systems organizations have been asking about OpenShift. It creates this fabric of a modernized hybrid cloud management strategy that can now pull in and include Power as part of that hybrid cloud platform.

Red Hat brings to our existing enterprise accounts a simplified way for clients to introduce Linux into their existing Power environments in a way that they can be sure that Linux is supported and enterprise-grade.
Alise Spence, offering manager, IBM Power Systems Cloud Solutions

IBM: What will the Red Had purchase mean for the future of other Linux distributions on POWER? 

SR: Along with Red Hat, other Linux providers are critical to the prosperity and continued growth of the Linux market in mission-critical workloads. As it would be foolish to limit how Red Hat works with partners, it’s the same for IBM, and in my case, the IBM Power Systems brand. SUSE and Canonical (Ubuntu) have key roles and expertise as partners that we jointly will continue to foster and grow as the Linux market matures.

AS: Clients tend to gravitate to a specific distro based on a variety of factors including workload affiliation, licensing model or familiarity. Sometimes they might look to another distribution as their business needs evolve—but having choice in the market is key to keeping the ecosystem open and vibrant. Going forward, we will, of course, lead with RHEL because it has the enterprise qualities of service we purchased Red Hat for—but we also see and understand the importance of supporting a variety of distributions to give our clients choice and flexibility. 

ISM: What would you say to clients who are apprehensive about the future of their mission-critical workloads?

CB: AIX and IBM i have been our bread and butter and, at times, Linux clients were unsure about whether we were really embracing Linux. So, you can see with the acquisition that we’re embracing it. The second thing is there is no way a single provider can meet all of the needs of all clients, so we’ll continue to support multiple Linux providers because there are capabilities that are unique to each. The thing with Red Hat is they are more than a Linux company—they also have extensive software and cloud capabilities.

ISM: What feedback have you heard from clients?

DP: The feedback from our clients overall has been very positive. By and large, our clients are thrilled that this has taken place and they equate it to the notion of increasing the velocity that we can bring open-source solutions to the marketplace. Why? Because it just fuels the overall manner in which we can continue to deliver offerings that solve real business problems in a secure and cost-efficient manner.

CB: Generally, I hear, “Wow, I didn’t know you guys were doing all this stuff!” The other common feedback is: “Why’d it take you so long?”

ISM: How do you see this partnership benefiting businesses drawn to hybrid cloud strategies?

DP: As long as I can remember, Red Hat was one of the first companies to preach the value of a hybrid cloud. Clients are constantly looking at possible economic benefits of moving the workload from cloud partner A to cloud partner B and the value in being able to integrate cloud partner C and cloud partner E or F. It’s not just about hybrid cloud but the notion of multiple software as a service products being delivered to that single enterprise. 

ISM: How can OpenShift help organizations gain a competitive edge?

CB: Red Hat brings that cloud credibility to IBM—and not just any cloud capabilities, but the hybrid cloud capability. Meaning, we’ve got the capability to run this OpenShift environment on-premises in clients’ data centers. So, in the private cloud, that same OpenShift environment can run in their choice of public cloud. It will run in IBM Cloud, but it will also run in other public clouds, which makes it open-ended. 

DP: Clients acknowledge it’s about having a reliable and secure platform on which they can move these applications. OpenShift is a platform for these applications to live in their own container that’s secure and makes it easy to move them around. This helps our customers differentiate themselves just by virtue of taking advantage and broadens the gap of their leadership in their respective industries. If they’re the leader today, great. They should always be looking over their shoulder to make sure they maintain that leadership position over their competitors. If they’re not a leader in their industry, well then, all the more reason.

AS: That brings us full circle to the first question—the advantage of a seamless hybrid cloud fabric. Enterprises can leverage OpenShift to bring the agility and efficiency of cloud to their on-premises data centers, more rapidly build innovative new services to drive new business and easily deploy apps to the cloud environment best suited for the app at the time.

IBM Systems Webinar Icon

View upcoming and on-demand (IBM Z, IBM i, AIX, Power Systems) webinars.
Register now →