Where do IBM and Red Hat go from here?

The deal is done. Here's where the open-source powers see their path moving forward.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

IBM acquired Red Hat for a cool $34 billion. It's IBM hope that Red Hat will help IBM's annual revenue growth within the next five years. That growth will come from the continued rise of the hybrid cloud. How will they do that? The same way Red Hat has always grown: By embracing the open-source software approach.

Specifically, as Paul Cormier, Red Hat's president of products and technologies, said in a conference call, it will continue moving forward with the hybrid cloud: "Today what we start on is that journey on steroids." 

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty agreed:

"Businesses are starting the next chapter of their digital reinventions, modernizing infrastructure and moving mission-critical workloads across private clouds and multiple clouds from multiple vendors. They need open, flexible technology to manage these hybrid multi-cloud environments. And they need partners they can trust to manage and secure these systems. IBM and Red Hat are uniquely suited to meet these needs. As the leading hybrid cloud provider, we will help clients forge the technology foundations of their business for decades to come."

Red Hat will do that while maintaining both its open source and its independence. 

In an employee memo, Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst -- who's staying on -- said:

"You've heard me say this before, but it bears repeating, Red Hat is still Red Hat. IBM is committed to preserving Red Hat's independence, neutrality, culture and industry partnerships.

I know you want to know what this means for you and it's pretty straightforward. Our mission, our culture, our 'community first' commitment, our product portfolio, our leadership team, our day-to-day operations, our brand and our soul are going to remain the same. Our unwavering commitment to open source -- and all that it takes to bring it into the enterprise -- is what makes us Red Hat. That is not changing."

Red Hat will operate as a distinct unit within IBM. It will report as part of IBM's Cloud and Cognitive Software business, but it will remain independent. Red Hat will also keep its existing facilities, brands, and its unique open organization leadership style.

The last thing IBM wants is to transform Red Hat into just another IBM brand. As Arvind Krishna, IBM's senior vice president of hybrid cloud, said when the deal was announced: "Red Hat must, and will, remain independent."

Open-source will remain Red Hat's heart and soul. As Red Hat CTO Chris Wright blogged:

"I believe open source won its place as the standard for modern IT solutions long before it became the center of the largest software acquisition in history. Open source won when Linux moved from a fringe technology to sitting in the mainstream of the enterprise. It won open source tools and software stacks became the go-to for developers. And it won when global-scale new businesses were born on top of open source technology foundations. Today, this is why open source is an innovation engine for the IT industry.

For Red Hat, "open" is in our DNA. It is the preeminent spirit that has driven us from our very beginning and something that we will not only preserve through this acquisition, but deepen."

In an open-source community developer FAQ, Wright also emphasized, "Red Hat will continue to contribute to and participate in open-source projects as we do today." So, for example, "Red Hat associates can contribute and participate in open source projects outside of Red Hat as they do today."

For programmers working with Red Hat software, Brad Micklea, Red Hat senior director of developer tools, program, and evangelism, said things will stay the same. So, the Red Hat developer  group will remain independent from IBM's developer group. This means the Red Hat Developer program -- including the site, blog, and social media channels -- will remain independent, and if you're already in the Red Hat Developer program, "you'll continue to enjoy free access to Red Hat software downloads, eBooks, events and great content."

As for Red Hat's partners, who will both help to carry the work and profit from the growth of the hybrid cloud, Mark Enzweiler. Red Hat's senior vice president of Global Channel Sales and Alliances, stated: 

"IBM and Red Hat will operate separate partner programs and cultivate distinct partner ecosystems. Together, we will continue to build and expand our work with organizations around the world and across industries.  . . . With IBM there is a multiplier for our partners and we will open those pathways where it makes sense." 

Enzweiler, naturally enough, sees one major area of opportunity as the open hybrid cloud:

"Our partner ecosystem will continue to help customers push their cloud strategies forward with accelerated enterprise offerings. We've been talking about hybrid cloud for years and have built a strong and flexible open hybrid cloud portfolio. Now, we'll also have access to the scale and depth of IBM's innovation and industry expertise, which our partners can take advantage of to build new services for customers. It really is the best of both worlds for our partners."

It all sounds good. I believe this acquisition will benefit IBM, Red Hat, and all Linux and open-source users. But, beginning today, we'll start seeing if the merger can live up to its promise.

Photos: From the first PCs to the ThinkPad – classic IBM machines

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