Developers may be the new kingmakers in the enterprise, to borrow Redmonk's phrase, but they've long ignored the enterprise open source leader, Red Hat. Two years ago, I called out Red Hat's apparent inability to engage the very audience that would ensure its long-term relevance. Now, there are signs that Red Hat got the message.
And, no, I'm not talking about OpenStack. Though Red Hat keeps selling OpenStack (seven of its top-30 deals last quarter included OpenStack, according to Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst), it's really OpenShift, the company's Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offering, that promises a bright, developer-friendly future for Red Hat.
Looking beyond OpenStack
Red Hat continues to push OpenStack, and rightly so—it's a way for Red Hat to certify a cloud platform just as it once banked on certifying the Linux platform. There's money in assuring risk-averse CIOs that it's safe to go into the OpenStack cloud environment.
Even so, as Whitehurst told investors in June, OpenStack is not yet "material" to the company's overall revenue, and generally generates deals under $100,000. It will continue to grow, but OpenStack adoption is primarily about telcos today, and that's unlikely to change as enterprises grow increasingly comfortable with public IaaS and PaaS options. OpenStack feels like a way to help enterprises avoid the public cloud and try to dress up their data centers in the fancy "private cloud" lingo.
OpenShift, by contrast, is far more interesting.
OpenShift, after all, opens Red Hat up to containers and all they mean for enterprise developer productivity. It's also a way to pull through other Red Hat software like JBoss and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, because Red Hat's PaaS is built on these products. OpenShift has found particular traction among sophisticated financial services companies that want to get in early on containers, but the list of customers includes a wide range of companies like Swiss Rail, BBVA, and many others.
More and faster
To be clear, Red Hat still has work to do. According to Gartner's most recent Magic Quadrant for PaaS, Salesforce and Microsoft are still a ways ahead, particularly in their ability to execute their vision:
Still, there are reasons to think Red Hat will separate itself from the PaaS pack. For one thing, the company is putting its code where it hopes its revenue will be. Red Hat learned long ago that, to monetize Linux effectively, it needed to contribute heavily. In similar fashion, only Google surpasses Red Hat in Kubernetes code contributions, and Docker Inc. is the only company to contribute more code to the Docker container project.
Why does this matter? If you're an enterprise that wants a container platform then you're going to trust those vendors that best understand the underlying code and have the ability to influence its direction. That's Red Hat.
Indeed, one of the things that counted against Red Hat in Gartner's Magic Quadrant ranking was its focus on Kubernetes and Docker ("Docker and Kubernetes have tremendous potential, but these technologies are still young and evolving," the report said). These may be young and relatively immature technologies, but all signs point to them dominating a container-crazy enterprise world for many years to come. Kubernetes, as I've written, is winning the container management war, putting Red Hat in pole position to benefit from that adoption, especially as it blends familiar tools like JBoss with exciting-but-unfamiliar technologies like Docker.
Red Hat has also been lowering the bar for getting started and productive with OpenShift, as Serdar Yegulalp described. By focusing on developer darlings like Docker and Kubernetes, and making them easily consumable by developers and more easily run by operations, Red Hat is positioning itself to finally be relevant to developers...and in a big way.
- How Red Hat is making money on the public cloud with a hybrid approach (TechRepublic)
- Red Hat goes all in on OpenShift and containers at Red Hat Summit 2016 (TechRepublic)
- Why every developer is an open source developer now (TechRepublic)
- Red Hat's open source success story built on killing complexity in IT (TechRepublic)
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux 'getting in the way' and needs to evolve, says product director (TechRepublic)
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.