In this Techaisle Take analysis, I will discuss which customer challenges Red Hat is addressing with its cloud services, market differentiation, especially VMware, and why its significant value lies in providing a consistent full-stack development and operational experience.
The customer challenges
A successful approach to the cloud needs to be structured around its capacity to evolve, support changing business requirements and customer/partner/employee expectations, respond to competitive pressures, and embrace new opportunities for automation/integration of automated systems. Businesses may be comfortable pursuing a limited number of objectives, but these objectives are no longer static. One of the challenges to providing cloud services is that the cloud spans two significant disciplines. One of the challenges to providing cloud services is that the cloud spans two critical levels. At a strategic level, the cloud is a management issue, and at the execution level, it is an IT issue. In IT, there are two main actors, developers and operators. Both developers and operations teams hold promise to support cloud development and deployment. In response, businesses have turned to an approach to development known as DevOps. In response, businesses have turned to an approach to developing and operating systems known as DevOps. Because of the optionality and complexity of tooling, it can be difficult to source appropriate cloud support for DevOps at a practical level. Techaisle’s Container Adoption Trends survey data shows that 57% of commercial customers seek application modernization services, and 77% are currently engaged in application migration services. Yet, 22% of firms believe there is a lack of IT and business strategy alignment understanding related to DevOps practice. Although modernization is a business priority, determining the right approach, paying off technical debt, internal strife between scrum/agile teams, not well-understood data & application dependencies, and legacy SDLC processes slow down the modernization programs. The competing corporate objectives usually compel an organization to manage and deploy a mix of environments, including on-prem configurations, private cloud, and multiple public cloud services. These diverse environments result in the need for a hybrid approach.
As a result, businesses deal with many inhibitors when planning to add business value at a faster pace and compete in the digital economy. The big challenge is building applications faster, reducing time to value, and deploying on-prem in private or public clouds. Operations teams are specifically under pressure to control costs, reduce operational complexity, improve security, and consistently manage across multiple cloud deployments. Operations teams are managing legacy applications running in virtualized environments in the data center while witnessing explosive adoption of the public cloud and associated services. In addition, businesses are increasing edge deployments, specifically in the industrial and telco verticals.
The solution – Red Hat Cloud Services
Red Hat’s cloud services strategy is built to address the multitude of the above-outlined challenges. Red Hat OpenShift provides consistency across all cloud environments, helping developers in cloud-native application development and rolling out applications in containers faster, giving the operators the ability to have the same operating experience across every deployment footprint for every application in both on-prem and public cloud. In addition to the core OpenShift platform, Red Hat Cloud Services includes several tightly integrated application development and data services intended to help developers build workloads and applications within the OpenShift managed-service environments. These additional managed cloud services include an API management service (Red Hat OpenShift API Management), a Kafka and streaming service (Red Hat OpenShift Streams for Apache Kafka), a service to simplify access control across multiple database vendors (Red Hat OpenShift Database Access), and a data science service (Red Hat OpenShift Data Science) for AI/ML workloads. According to Techaisle’s Container Adoption Trends survey research, the additional services are likely to see an adoption growth of 68% among commercial customers within the year.
OpenShift provides consistency across all cloud environments, helping developers in cloud-native application development and rolling out applications in containers faster, giving the developers, operators, and security teams an ability to have the same operating experience across every deployment footprint for every application. By shifting to Red Hat cloud services, organizations can reduce focus on IT operations and increase focus on applications. In addition to the self-managed version of OpenShift, OpenShift Container Platform, Red Hat has created specific OpenShift managed services in partnership with Amazon AWS, Red Hat OpenShift Service on AWS, and Microsoft Azure, named Microsoft Azure Red Hat OpenShift.
Customers need the ability to rapidly deploy containerized applications at scale, whether on a single cloud or multi-cloud, focus on disaster recovery, backup, and operating in a hybrid model on a hyperscaler. Each of the offerings (Red Hat OpenShift Service on AWS and Microsoft Azure Red Hat OpenShift) is hyperscaler native and provides hybrid cloud flexibility. Their significant value is providing consistency across self-managed instances of OpenShift and OpenShift cloud services.
Each hyperscaler has its own Kubernetes offerings, such as Amazon EKS and Azure AKS, but they have predominantly managed control planes, offering basic Kubernetes services where the customer owns integration of other components and management of the platform in a shared responsibility model. Even Scott Guthrie, EVP, Microsoft, has commented that the best way to run Kubernetes in the cloud is the OpenShift managed service on Azure, Microsoft Azure Red Hat OpenShift. Deepak Singh, VP, Amazon Web Services, echoes the importance of Red Hat’s deep engineering partnership and offering with AWS. Techaisle’s container adoption trends research shows that multi-cloud, hybrid cloud and modernization are challenging for most CIOs. It is difficult to do and operate one cloud well, so one really must have a good reason to want to do multi-cloud because there are just so many skills required to manage a cloud well that to be able to manage multiples of them, it's not something that many IT teams want to “bite off” unless there is a requirement to do so. Generally, enterprises do not have enough people/teams, especially those who understand cloud, security, and data. Businesses prefer to avoid undifferentiated heavy lifting. Craig Muzilla, Senior Vice President, Products and Technology, Red Hat, says, “SREs are our secret weapon.” This team of site reliability engineers is at hand to manage the infrastructure, allowing the businesses or partners’ customers to focus on modernizing their apps. The SRE team’s job number one is to monitor everything and be proactive with the customer, managing the entire infrastructure and cloud environment on behalf of the customer.
Techaisle’s Container Adoption Trends study shows that most businesses using OpenShift find it an excellent product. However, they also say that working with OpenShift is challenging if the developers and operators are unfamiliar with the Red Hat environment. In the Techaisle research, businesses also report that OpenShift UI, the interface to manage the containers, is a step ahead of what the cloud providers offer. But some find it challenging that an additional component sits on top of the cloud providers compared to a native managed service. Red Hat is unleashing its SRE team as an integral part of cloud services to address these challenges.
Different from VMware
The Red Hat Cloud Services offering also differentiates itself from VMware, whose primary focus is virtualization, an abstraction layer compared to OpenShift being tightly integrated into the Linux operating system, which is the foundation for containers. VMware’s history was to encapsulate apps into VMs and has limited experience with the challenges of creating a true modernization path. For many businesses, VMware (and Tanzu) is not a factor in their decisions because they are focusing on getting away from the VMware ecosystem as they move to modernize and move to the public cloud. As per the Techaisle Container Adoption Trends study, 56% of businesses say that they are planning to fully replace virtualized environments with cloud-native. In a parallel Techaisle survey with partners, data shows that partners agree that 39% of their customers plan to completely replace virtualized environments with cloud-native. VMware Tanzu is VMware’s approach to modernizing applications leveraging the Tanzu suite of products that run on top of and require traditional VMware infrastructure software, e.g., VMware vSphere, adding to the cost and complexity of multiple VMware solutions. In addition, if portability is essential to businesses, working with Red Hat is akin to dealing with two suppliers, a hyperscaler and Red Hat). On the other hand, working with VMware introduces three tiers of complexity, 1/ the hyperscaler, 2/ VMware Kubernetes distribution, and 3/ VMware software. Red Hat is a pure Open Source vendor, whereas VMware comes across as proprietary.
Techaisle’s many discussions with practitioners reveal that Kubernetes by itself is not enough. It needs more automation, network identity, monitoring, CI/CD, service mesh, compute, authentication, etc. These core capabilities are available in OpenShift, delivering an application development platform where customers can spend more time building and modernizing applications rather than integrating and maintaining a container platform. Red Hat OpenShift is built on open source. Red Hat is a key community member for Kubernetes and supports projects from GitOps (ArgoCD), serverless (Knative), and much more. Security, complexity, and skills gap are barriers to deploying containers. Techaisle’s research shows that container management is both a priority and a challenge. Security, complexity, and skills gap are barriers to deploying containers. Securing code, data, users, and workloads is challenging for 63% of businesses and 65% of partners. Similarly, managing and scaling storage is a challenge for 58% of businesses and 51% of partners deploying containers. Red Hat has thought through most of the challenges, and a broad ecosystem and partners have been empowered to address the issues at the design and PoC stages.
To help better manage and operate OpenShift, Red Hat provides Advanced Cluster Management (ACM). This single control can span across the organization’s on-prem OpenShift deployments and your use of Red Hat OpenShift Service on AWS and Microsoft Azure Red Hat OpenShift. By using this control plane, operators get a single view of all environments and can easily manage initiating and controlling clusters and containers across multiple environments. This provides an organization with a single, operationally consistent view of everything they are doing. Moreover, users can consistently secure their use of containers with Advanced Container Security (ACS) in these environments.
Final Techaisle Take
There is evidence that Red Hat is transitioning from a product-out to a customer-in company and is including its partners in driving success. Not only is Red Hat reducing friction from customer procurement processes, but the Red Hat sellers, partners, and hyperscalers’ sellers are also increasingly working together in a co-sell motion. A key success factor of co-selling is the seller compensation model. Both the Red Hat sales teams and the hyperscaler partner sales team are each compensated for selling a joint Red Hat solution.
The impact of the cloud varies from business to business and depends on the impetus for change within. The delivery of efficient cloud services is no longer about cost savings; it’s about innovation and driving revenue gains. Businesses adopt the agile “DevOps'' approach to accelerate with a streamlined developer experience. Development and operations teams break down walls and deliver seamless services with a single shared goal – to help foster innovation. Simultaneously, operators in traditional legacy environments are transitioning to public cloud services with real-time integration points between corporate applications, data, and external systems, referred to as a “service-based architecture.” When infrastructure modernization, application modernization, and migration are goals, and where the cloud continuum is moving from cloud re-architecture to cloud-native through cloud management and expansion and containers are the vehicle for auto-scalability, self-healing, business value, dynamic IT-enabled by continuous cloud services, Red Hat has just invoked its Red Hat Enterprise Linux dominance with OpenShift cloud services. By shifting to Red Hat Cloud Services, businesses can reduce focus on data center operations and increase focus on applications. Red Hat’s significant value is providing a consistent full-stack development and operational experience. Businesses like the ability to rapidly deploy containerized applications at scale, whether on a single cloud or multi-cloud, focus on disaster recovery, backup, and operating in a hybrid model on a hyperscaler.
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