Red Hat To Partners: Build Open-Source Practice Fit For Enterprise

The 2015 Red Hat Partner Conference kicked off Wednesday with a focus on a number of the hottest emerging technologies hitting the enterprise market, and a call from the software vendor to partners to build practices around those open-source products.

Red Hat execs urged the 350 partners attending the summit in Orlando, Fla., to invest in delivering the cutting-edge cloud infrastructure, storage, development platforms and container technologies that business customers are clamoring for.

Red Hat has been busy developing enterprise-ready versions of those technologies, they said, from its OpenStack distribution, to the OpenShift PaaS offering, to deep support for Docker, the Linux container standard that's revolutionizing DevOps.

[Related: Red Hat Goes Atomic With Container-Centric OS]

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Red Hat is helping its channel take "these cool, sexy things that people are talking about" and sell them "with real products, with a real company behind them, all of the downstream lifecycle management and all of the things you would expect behind an enterprise-class product," Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst told CRN in an interview after delivering his keynote.

Whitehurst said what Red Hat does best -- and what serves as a powerful message for partners to take to customers -- is enabling enterprises to on-ramp those powerful open-source technologies with confidence.

The very nature of the open-source movement has drastically changed in the past five years, Whitehurst said. Once, it was about providing cheaper alternatives to proprietary solutions -- today, it's where all the innovation is happening.

"The broader channel community has to have a point of view in offerings related to open source," Whitehurst told CRN.

That's why, the CEO told CRN, he sees Red Hat's role, in large part, is to curate the hundreds of thousands of open-source projects that are available, making the best of them consumable by businesses through channel partners.

OpenStack, OpenShift and Docker all enable partners to "take advantage of the power of cloud without isolating, or obsoleting what they've done to date. That's a good, easy message for our partners to offer their customers," Whitehurst said.

Tim Yeaton, vice president of Red Hat's infrastructure business, told CRN, "we've made it real over the last year in particular for a lot of these partners. A big part of our message is the technology is real, it's in production, and we can help you engage your customers."

The complexity and scalability of those technologies is also the reason Red Hat wants to work with partners more than at any other time in its history, Yeaton said.

It "really requires us to work with partners, both for cloud-native new workloads, or integrating those with existing infrastructure and workloads," Yeaton told CRN.

Whitehurst told CRN what has amazed him most of late is the speed with which business customers are moving toward solutions around containers.

Last month, Red Hat threw its weight behind container tech with the release of Atomic Host, the first version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux to offer fully integrated Docker automation through the Kubernetes orchestration platform.

On the OpenStack front, Red Hat revealed Wednesday the latest release born from its partnership with Dell: an "enhanced edition" of the converged OpenStack server the two companies brought to market in 2013 "to take the complexity out of deploying an OpenStack cloud," according to Radhesh Balakrishnan, general manager of the company's OpenStack project.

Dell Red Hat Cloud Solution merges Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 and Red Hat OpenStack 6, built from the latest Juno release of the cloud operating system, with Dell's new PowerEdge R630 and R730xd servers.

The latest OpenStack servers in the line include seven new features, advanced networking capabilities that are needed by telecoms, and are "truly faster and better from a performance perspective" with solid state drives and 20 percent greater VM density, he said.

Mark Enzweiler, Red Hat's global channel chief, told CRN that business customers are evolving quickly because the prevalence of marketing and messaging around cloud and open-source technologies.

In turn, those new technologies disrupting enterprise IT are challenging vendors to communicate more effectively with their channel partners so, when queried by customers, the solution providers can propose the best solutions, Enzweiler said.

"I think our partner base needs to be well-prepared with those answers or risk losing business," Enzweiler told CRN.