The Big Picture

Welcome

Article from Issue 226/2019
Author(s): , Author(s):

IBM finally closed the deal to purchase Red Hat this month, writing a $34 billion check for the leading Linux company in hopes of restarting its cloud and network service endeavors. Red Hat was a really big fish in the open source scene, but they are tiny compared to IBM, and many observers are wondering how this story will unfold.

Dear Reader,

IBM finally closed the deal to purchase Red Hat this month, writing a $34 billion check for the leading Linux company in hopes of restarting its cloud and network service endeavors. Red Hat was a really big fish in the open source scene, but they are tiny compared to IBM, and many observers are wondering how this story will unfold.

In the press release confirming the sale [1], IBM said all the right things, leading off the announcement with the following bullets:

  • IBM preserves Red Hat's independence and neutrality; Red Hat will strengthen its existing partnerships to give customers freedom, choice, and flexibility.
  • Red Hat's unwavering commitment to open source remains unchanged.
  • Together, IBM and Red Hat will deliver a next-generation hybrid multicloud platform.

As you probably already know, this deal is all about the cloud, and about integrating hybrid cloud with IBM's existing business service portfolio. The quote from IBM CEO Ginni Rometty sounds like a manifesto, "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 multicloud 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."

It all looks good for the big picture, and IBM has always been good at the big picture. The company has a long history with the cloud. In fact, one could argue that IBM's Big Green initiative back in 2007 was one of the first, bold steps that got the cloud revolution off the ground [2]. It is an interesting lesson for all who will heed it that, despite their early interest and energy in cloud computing, IBM got left behind by the agility of smaller companies and the power of open source development. Twelve years after Big Green, Big Blue is looking for a way back in, and Red Hat offers tantalizing possibilities.

How will all this end? It is too early to know. Whatever they tell you, things are never exactly the same when a big company buys a smaller company, but that doesn't mean it will be a disaster. IBM has been working on infusing some startup culture and sensibility into their massive ranks for some time, so they are at least thinking about how to keep it fresh. And actually, IBM is pretty good at maintaining a long-term vision. Better IBM than Oracle or Microsoft.

I'm not too worried about what will happen with Red Hat Enterprise Linux; however, I do wonder what will become of all the little projects and infrastructure services that Red Hat helps to develop. The Red Hat website lists over 400 open source projects to which Red Hat contributes [3]. Some of the tools on the list are core Linux components you hear about every day. Others are lesser known tools that you never hear about, because they just work and don't cause a lot of bug reports. Of course, Red Hat is not the lead sponsor on all 400 of these projects, but they are a big part of many. Sage Weil, the creator of the Ceph storage system, works for Red Hat. So does Lennart Poettering, creator of systemd. Other FOSS projects, like Spacewalk, JBoss, and many more, carry the life blood of Red Hat.

In the short term, I'm sure nothing will change, but if the economy goes downhill, and the company starts looking for ways to cut costs and conserve resources, will IBM maintain this deep commitment to open source that has been such an important part of the Red Hat culture? If they are smart they will, because that commitment to free software is what put Red Hat ahead of IBM in the first place, but cost cutting directives draw funny pictures in the minds of executives. If the money stops dropping in their pockets, we'll see if IBM is still good at the big picture.

Buy this article as PDF

Express-Checkout as PDF
Price $2.95
(incl. VAT)

Buy Linux Magazine

SINGLE ISSUES
 
SUBSCRIPTIONS
 
TABLET & SMARTPHONE APPS
Get it on Google Play

US / Canada

Get it on Google Play

UK / Australia

Related content

comments powered by Disqus

Direct Download

Read full article as PDF:

Price $2.95

News