IBM Hybrid Cloud Plan for Red Hat Hinges on Kubernetes

IBM and Red Hat made it clear that the foundation of their combined hybrid cloud computing strategy will be Kubernetes once the $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat closes in the second half of 2019.

Arvind Krishna, senior vice president of hybrid cloud for IBM, says Kubernetes is at the center of the hybrid cloud computing strategy which will enable the combined companies to address a market that, according to IBM, will be valued at $1 trillion.

The driving force behind that hybrid cloud computing strategy will be Kubernetes clusters that can be deployed in both on-premises and public cloud computing environments, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Alibaba and IBM Cloud.

In fact, as those Kubernetes clusters continue to mature, IBM is betting on the expertise of Red Hat to drive opportunities spanning applications, hardware and services. Paul Cormier, executive vice president and president for products and technologies for Red Hat, predicts the expertise Red Hat has developed around Linux containers, Kubernetes and automation will prove critical to enabling IBM to become a primary driver of cloud computing.

IBM claims it already generates $19 billion in annual revenues from hybrid cloud. During a conference call with industry analysts today, IBM CEO Ginny Rometty noted that 80 percent of existing applications are still running in on-premises IT environments. Organizations are looking to IBM to help them determine what applications to port to the cloud, which ones to extend using microservices and which ones to rewrite. IBM has more than 3,000 consultants working within a Cloud Migration Factory practice within its service division to guide customers through what Rometty refers to as “Chapter Two” of the cloud.

A key element of that strategy is to make sure that Red Hat continues to operate as “Switzerland” and is not unduly influenced by the rest of IBM, adds Rometty.

The Red Hat approach to Kubernetes manifests itself in the form of Red Hat OpenShift, which melded the company’s platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment with Kubernetes. IBM has been developing its own curated instances of Kubernetes that customers can deploy themselves or invoke via a managed service. IBM also provides customers with access to a curated instance of the open source Cloud Foundry PaaS that it has been porting to Kubernetes. IBM signaled it intends to continue to support all these platforms alongside distributions of Linux provided by other vendors as long as there is enough customer demand to justify the effort.

Obviously, IBM and Red Hat are not the only vendors looking to leverage open source technologies such as Kubernetes to drive a hybrid cloud computing strategy. The challenge the two will face is the degree to which IT organizations will see a need to rely on IBM and Red Hat to achieve that goal, especially as Kubernetes continues to mature. If not, the small choir of critics that are already questioning the $34 billion IBM is spending to acquire Red Hat soon might turn into angry mob of investors.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.

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