Red Hat Summit: 5 Boldest Remarks From IBM, Microsoft and Red Hat CEOs

Donna Goodison

‘To be blunt, five years ago we had, I guess to be polite, it would be called an adversarial relationship,’ Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst says to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.


Going Bold In Boston

More than 8,900 attendees swarmed the Red Hat Summit this week in Boston, where the enterprise open-source software company released the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 operating system and its OpenShift 4 Kubernetes platform.

IBM chief executive Ginni Rometty and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella shared the keynote-session stage with Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst at the 15th-year installment of the open-source technology event. Rometty talked up IBM’s pending $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat and their future relationship. Nadella was there to help herald Azure Red Hat OpenShift, the new enterprise-grade Kubernetes platform that allows developers to run container-based applications on-premises and across Azure, Microsoft’s public cloud. Microsoft will jointly manage the platform with Red Hat.

“The CEOs of (two of the) largest technology companies in the world on stage in the same keynote, and it’s a Red Hat keynote,” Whitehurst said. “Who would have expected that? Hopefully it says something about open source and our role, but it also certainly says something about those companies and their desire to serve customers and their desire to embrace open source.”

CRN assembled some of the top talking points from the conference, which speak to Rometty’s view of how Red Hat will operate under IBM, Whitehurst’s message to channel partners who may be wary of the IBM acquisition, Red Hat’s more contentious past relationship with Microsoft, and Nadella’s thoughts on the demand for software engineers and democratizing innovation.

Rometty On IBM’s Red Hat Acquisition

Rometty: Working together is the right word. Coming together is not necessarily the way I would describe this. We would both agree we are on a mission to scale open source. So that's a good place to start from when you talk about two cultures. But…Jim and I have both agreed, Red Hat should stay an independent unit.

The other side of this is that then IBM will change. It's easier for me to change and to change IBM, in that so much of what Red Hat does, we’ll build on top of that. And hopefully then what we'll offer to clients is, if they choose, a really secure mission-critical stack, a hybrid cloud stack.

The (Red Hat) team has (done) a fantastic job. We know the job they do for our clients that are in the room. I am extremely respectful of preserving that. I always say to Jim, it's not like I have a death wish over $34 billion. I'm not buying them to destroy them by any stretch. I want them to be successful.

Whitehurst’s Message To Red Hat Channel Partners Under IBM

Whitehurst: We are spending a massive amount of time in the planning phase of this being highly, highly sensitive to protecting our channel and our channel partners. IBM -- because they've always had a Global Business Services business and a direct sales force and a channel -- is really, really good at thinking about that and the second-order consequences. So we're working really, really hard to protect all of our channel partners.

I think we're going to have great programs, processes, to make sure that all our channel partners ultimately benefit, because we believe this will accelerate our growth. We're being really sensitive to keep our channel partners completely separate, because it's going to be a separate entity. It's something we're spending a lot of time on. We recognize how important it is – 80 percent of our revenue goes through our partners.

Just verbally, in the conversations going back and forth, even before we got to the point around the acquisition, they've always been enamored with the fact -- they call it our “long tail” – that we have thousands of customers, which is a real strength of us. And I know they see that as a real strength of ours. That's all because of our channel strategy. So that's something that they see is really, really important to us and the value that we bring with us to IBM.

Whitehurst And Nadella On The Red Hat-Microsoft Collaboration

Whitehurst after Nadella walks onto the Summit keynote-sessions stage: Would not have expected to see that, to be honest with you. It's been a long time.

Nadella: Everything has a time.

Whitehurst, later in the talk: To be blunt, five years ago we had, I guess to be polite, it would be called an adversarial relationship. It's just amazing to see how much progress we've had together. And I think that's on both sides a real desire to serve our customers, and we found such great ways to work together. Any thoughts on how we think about this partnership in the future?

Nadella: We are very, very committed to the partnership because it's driven by what I believe is fundamentally what our customers expect of us. They expect of us to…really interoperate, be committed to open source. In our case, it's not just the partnership with Red Hat, but the fundamental is the actions, the deeds of what are we doing in terms of contributing to Linux, what are we contributing to Hadoop, what are we contributing to Kubernetes, how are we bringing .NET to open source or (Visual Studio) Code, or how are we continuing to be great stewards of GitHub. I think that's really what we're very committed to. But in the context of what we've gotten started, I would love to see the feedback. Even today, one of the most encouraging things for me is I got sort of this list of features that they want and are pushing us. I think that's what's really going to be at the core of what is going to be our strategy and our commitment to this partnership.

Nadella On The Demand For Software Engineers

Nadella: What excites me the most is this amazing data piece I saw recently on LinkedIn, which says the number of software engineers being hired outside of what is considered the tech industry is going to be higher, and it's going to forever be higher, than the tech industry. That's phenomenal, and what it means is software is becoming a new factor of production in every industry out there. That's probably the most exciting thing, and obviously what that means is computing and the computing architecture is fundamentally changing everything from storage to network to compute, what's happening in the cloud, in the edge.

Nadella On Democratizing Innovation

The thing that truly needs to happen is – two things -- how do we ensure that the cost structure of the raw infrastructure and the innovation platform is something that makes every business out there competitive. That's sort of the No. 1 thing. I think all of us having the interoperability, support for open source, support for standards, it's going to reduce the friction for anyone trying to innovate. That's sort of a lot of what is the spirit behind our (Red Hat) partnership. But the second area…a lot of AI is considered to be things that a few companies in a few countries have. We just have to get past that. We have to truly democratize it. For us, for example, we're a tools company at the core. So to me to be able to say, “OK, here is a no-code solution for doing machine learning” is a pretty exciting thing.


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