Red Hat is well known as probably the most successful company built entirely on open-source software. Building a business on top of open source is a hard thing, especially so back in the early days of open source when no one had any real idea how the economics of a product that was free would translate into commercial success.
But succeed it did, and Red Hat has created a huge business built entirely on offering services on top of open-source products.
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The company's initial success was, of course, built around the corresponding wide uptake of the Linux operating system. Linux services was what Red Hat built its base upon. But time, as they say, never stands still, and Red Hat has deftly jumped on board a huge number of other open-source initiatives to try and emulate its Linux success.
One initiative Red Hat has been “all in” with is OpenStack, the open-source cloud computing initiative created jointly by Rackspace and NASA. OpenStack has grown from an esoteric little science project to a real thing with thousands of contributors, good examples of real-world production workloads, and a growing, if sometimes grudging, acceptance that it is here to stay.
Red Hat, for its part, is well aware that the success of an initiative such as OpenStack relies upon significant, sustainable and real case studies of adoption. It is also hugely predicated on key strategic partnerships. We see moves towards this today with the announcement that Red Hat is partnering with Ericsson to deliver a series of different open-source solutions, all designed to work together and tailored for specific use cases.
Building on a strong partnership
Red Hat and Ericsson have a strong partnership, formed around the notion of bringing RHEL (the abbreviation for Red Hat’s Enterprise Linux product) and Red Hat JBoss Middleware to existing Ericsson customers. This partnership announcement expands on that to focus on OpenStack, NFV infrastructure (NFVi), software-defined networking (SDN), software-defined infrastructure (SDI) and containers. In terms of the deliverables the partnership promises to produce, they are both hard product related and softer. The breadth includes:
- Upstream collaboration: The companies are taking an “upstream first” approach to collaboration across open-source projects and communities, including OpenStack, OPNFV and OpenDaylight
- Solution certification and new joint offerings: Red Hat and Ericsson are collaborating on hardware and software roadmaps and a broad certification program aimed at developing new joint offerings for NFV, SDN and SDI.
- Ericsson is expanding its telco NFV solution to include Red Hat OpenStack Platform. For their joint NFV, SDN and SDI solutions, the companies plan to work together to offer easy-to-deploy solutions, including automated deployment and management.
- Technical alignment to advance container innovation and adoption: Both Red Hat and Ericsson will collaborate in upstream activities in, for example, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) and Open Container Initiative (OCI) communities.
And finally, totally unsurprising given Red Hat’s DNA, the partnership covers a deep professional services offering.
Both companies are, naturally enough, bullish about this deal and have rolled out their big guns to talk it up. On the Red Hat side of things, Paul Cormier, president of products and technologies, gave what is essentially the rallying cry for open source:
“Red Hat believes that the future of the communications industry will be defined by modern architectures and open-source solutions spanning the hybrid cloud, containers, software-defined infrastructure and NFV. Ericsson shares that belief, and together we can bring the communications industry into the future with open, more secure and highly scalable solutions that enable customers to transform their businesses and deliver on the promise of IoT, 5G and more.”
Perhaps more interesting is Jason Hoffman, head of product area cloud infrastructure at Ericsson. Hoffman was previously the founder of cloud computing vendor Joyent. Joyent was largely regarded as an excellent company that never really found its feet commercially. Hoffman has taken that fact and, arguably, focused it more commercially in his new role at Ericsson.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Like other companies supplying the telco industry, Ericsson is under immense pressure. Its solutions are almost always huge price-tag items, and its customers are, again almost invariably, under massive existential threats. Ericsson is almost the quintessence of a traditional company selling a legacy product into a legacy industry. That it is diving headfirst into new solutions, with new business models and new delivery partners, is telling.
Hoffman reflected on this in only a few words (before going onto the usual glib “we are the best and our partners make us better” theme):
“The future is open and software defined.”
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. I’m waiting to see Ericsson and Red Hat announce a huge commercial win within the telco space. Ideally this would come from a telco on the conservative end of things to really prove the contentions that both companies make. Partnerships are funny things; they can either create a revolution or alternatively fade into memory. So, which will this one be?
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