Red Hat Summit 2020

This week PAC attended Red Hat’s annual summit 2020. Predictably this year’s event was a very different affair from previous years, with none of the keynote hoopla, tradeshow pizzazz, and headline-busting product launches we’ve experienced in previous years.  The current pandemic inevitably drove a very different tone to the online summit – and with so many in our sector worrying about family and friends, let alone the state of their businesses, Red Hat got the tone spot-on.

At this slightly more thoughtful summit, Red Hat was clearly aware of its importance and responsibilities to its ecosystem. Many of its customers and partners have seen their traditional incomes dry up, and are worried about what the future holds. In response Red Hat is trying to be flexible with these organizations (through reduced costs, flexibility on existing commitments etc.) to help them weather the storm. Other customers are revising their growth plans for a post-COVID world, and Red Hat is helping these customers become agile to adapt to rapidly evolving markets. A fortunate few are facing massive and unexpected growth, and again Red Hat is showing these customers how to scale rapidly while ensuring that nothing breaks. These are all part of the unexpected “Key Trends in IT” for Spring 2020…

Red Hat took great pains at the Summit to position itself as the true champion of the ‘open hybrid cloud’ vision. This seems to be a sore point to Red Hat, perhaps because so many other vendors riff on the same theme (to our recollection Atos, Cisco, Microsoft, TCS, VMware, and ironically IBM have all used ‘open hybrid cloud’ in past marketing). While Red Hat has a better claim than most to embody this strategy, teknowlogy Group suspects that the company’s consistency, flexibility, and multi-platform capability are more important to IT users than openness in and of itself…

Nonetheless the consistency of Red Hat’s platforms is truly impressive, providing a sufficiently uniform environment to enable the same code to run across bare metal, public and private cloud, and edge, and for that code and be managed and operated in the same way for all platforms. Today the company is focusing on three vectors through which it enables open hybrid cloud: hybrid cloud infrastructure (including RHEL and OpenStack); cloud native development (including OpenShift and Kubernetes); and management and automation (including Insights and Ansible).

While this isn’t new, the presentation did seem much clearer and crisper than previous iterations. What is new is Red Hat Advanced Cluster Manager, which enables organizations running large numbers of OpenShift instances to manage them from a single interface, and apply policies to remove some of the manual heavy lifting. This is based on IBM’s existing cluster management capability, and was a rare instance of new product capability clearly benefiting from the acquisition.

Red Hat has also been very active to enhance edge capabilities. This has been developed with telcos in mind, looking at both how 5G delivery can be optimized, and how new edge services can be delivered as 5G use cases. Telcos started looking at Virtual Network Functions (‘VNFs’) around 2015, many using DIY OpenStack as a platform. Most found that raw OpenStack of that era that was a struggle, and many turned to Red Hat’s supported alternative, which over time has given Red Hat a lot of insight into telco needs. As telcos embrace cloud-native, there’s now a slightly counter-intuitive need to support virtualization within containers, which is now being trialed by OpenShift virtualization. This enables telcos to move from running VNFs on OpenStack to running Containerized Network Functions (‘CNFs’) on OpenShift, providing greater agility, greater consistency, and more automation (through Ansible and Advanced Cluster Manager). And while the initiative was started to meet telco needs, it’s available to any user that needs container-native virtualization, providing a stepping stone between VM- and container-based IT and applications.

A final new product capability (and we've only mentioned a selection) is Red Hat Marketplace. This provides the now-familiar model of a SaaS-delivered app marketplace – in this case, for applications that run on OpenShift. Like other marketplaces, buyers have the assurance that Red Hat as curator has pre-approved all apps, that deployment of apps purchased through the marketplace is integrated into OpenShift, that in the event of issues buyers can raise support tickets through Red Hat, and that license usage and spend is consolidated across all platforms. In other words, more reassurance, more ease of use, easier support, in return for a more restricted choice – a trade-off that we believe will be popular with users and partners alike. 

Overall, we were impressed by Red Hat Summit 2020. While the company seems keen to dominate in enabling software to run anywhere, it is getting there by focusing on making IT simpler and easier – needs that are often overlooked in pursuit of market share.