By Jean S. Bozman
Red Hat’s Enterprise Linux (RHEL) distribution and Red Hat OpenShift have become a foundation for Red Hat’s growth into a $3.4 billion software company. The latest releases – the RHEL 8 operating environment and Red Hat OpenShift 4 container platform – clearly target the current wave of cloud migration that is focused on creating multi-cloud computing environments.
The new releases signal a set of watershed changes that will allow more customer “roles”, in addition to sys admins, to deploy and manage RHEL and OpenShift. This reflects the wider business-unit interest in acquiring cloud services.
All RHEL 8 subscriptions include Red Hat Insights. Insights applies machine learning (ML) models to a customer’s operations data. The goal of Insights is to identify emerging patterns and anomalies that could lead to operational problems. The Insights offering is available at no additional cost to active RHEL 6, RHEL 7 and RHEL 8 subscriptions.
Red Hat OpenShift 4 is the company’s container platform for hybrid and multi-cloud deployments. It includes direct support for Kubernetes, the container orchestration software that has emerged as the primary container platform for cloud-native workloads. Red Hat is betting that its support for Kubernetes orchestration will accelerate OpenShift’s adoption among enterprise customers. OpenShift 4 supports Kubernetes operators, linking it to Kubernetes’ momentum in the marketplace.
Red Hat continues to follow its commitment to support older versions of RHEL for at least 10 years from initial release. This level of long-term and predictable support has helped the company win business from large enterprises and governmental organizations.
Red Hat Summit Announcements
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 (RHEL 8) is a new release of the RHEL operating system. New additions include: a Web Console to help administrators more easily manage multiple environments; a Universal Base Image (UBI) to help developers create pre-tested golden images for different container environments; and Insights for analytics on operations data. RHEL 8 also has direct support for GPUs, such as Nvidia GPUs, which is critical for data science, AI, machine learning (ML), and workloads and visualization.
- Red Hat OpenShift 4 brings new management capabilities: OpenShift 4 has built-in Kubernetes operators to help make it easier for organizations to develop and deploy containerized applications for hybrid cloud and multicloud. Red Hat has said that there are currently about 1,000 OpenShift customers – referring to entire enterprises ands organizations – accounting for hundreds of thousands of distributed container deployments worldwide.
- Red Hat Smart Management is an additional set of capabilities available for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) with Insights. Red Hat Insights is now built-in with RHEL for automated, proactive guidance, and Red Hat Smart Management extends those capabilities. Red Hat Smart Management combines Red Hat Satellite for on-premises systems management and new cloud management services for distributed RHEL deployments.
Red Hat’s updated offerings are clearly focused on hybrid and multi-cloud deployments. By adding automation to make administration easier, these releases will have broad impact given RHEL’s large industry footprint. RHEL, which has been shipping for more than 15 years, runs on a wide variety of on-premises systems, from x86 servers to IBM Power Systems and IBM Z mainframes. RHEL-based workloads run on more than 400 Certified Cloud and Service Providers (CCSPs), including AWS, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Microsoft Azure, AliCloud and many regional CSPs.
Impact on IBM Customers
IBM’s anticipated $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat, announced in 2018, and due to be completed later this year, has brought attention to Red Hat’s role in transforming the IT industry. We expect the new RHEL and OpenShift releases to strengthen IBM’s ongoing work with customers that are modernizing on-premises data centers – and to accelerate workload migrations to hybrid and multi-cloud environments. The pace of IBM leveraging OpenShift and RHEL to help customers with their transformation will be the first indication of Red Hat’s role as a technology catalyst within IBM’s extensive base of customers.
After the acquisition closes, IBM plans to allow Red Hat to operate as an independent business unit. Given IBM’s very large and global sales and partnership network, there is a strong opportunity for RHEL and OpenShift sales to increase significantly. For example, Red Hat has a presence in 35 countries, while IBM has a presence in more than 170 countries worldwide. On a technical level, It’s likely that IBM will build more of its cloud-based software offerings on top of the OpenShift framework, making it easier for customers to deploy IBM’s software on any platform – whether that deployment is on-premises or off-premises.
Impact on Microsoft Customers
Red Hat’s partnership with Microsoft would have shocked employees of both companies just a few years ago – due to Red Hat’s history as an open source software company and Microsoft’s history as a company built on top of a proprietary operating system. However, in recent years, the two companies have been working together to optimize OpenShift containers for use on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. A demo at the Red Hat Summit keynote showed Microsoft Windows applications and the Microsoft SQL Server database running inside OpenShift containers on Azure.
Now generally available, Microsoft Azure Red Hat OpenShift (ARO), which is OpenShift managed by Microsoft’s Azure cloud service, supports fully managed clusters, access to Azure public cloud services; and enhanced flexibility to move workloads from on-prem to off-prem, and vice versa.
The evolution of the Red Hat and Microsoft relationship is noteworthy. Red Hat and Microsoft have been long-time competitors in operating systems and DevOps, with separate code-bases for apps and application tools. But the two companies have taken deliberate steps toward greater interoperability in recent years, acknowledging customers’ moves into hybrid clouds carrying diverse workloads. Microsoft’s 2018 acquisition of the GitHub open-source repository for $7.5 billion was another signal of its growing commitment to open source projects.
Microsoft Windows workloads (e.g. Microsoft SQLServer databases) and Linux workloads (e.g., open-source applications) will be shipping in OpenShift containers on Azure. Both companies will be responsible for updates and maintenance related to these jointly developed OpenShift technologies.
A Closer Look at RHEL 8
The RHEL 8 release brings the following:
- Universal Base Image (UBI): The Universal Base Image is an enterprise-grade container image that can serve as the foundation for DevOps work on any development platform. Using the UBI, developers can “containerize” applications, create golden images that will be replicated — and then deploy anywhere. Red Hat is providing versions for RHEL 7 and RHEL 8, in recognition that enterprises tend to run older versions of their software stack for many years, as long as they are secure and stable.
- Insights: Red Hat is making its Insights offering available at no cost to all RHEL customers with active RHEL 6, RHEL 7 and RHEL 8 subscriptions. The goal of Insights is to identify leading indicators of possible security, availability, and stability problems before they cause larger problems. Insights uses machine learning (ML) models that have been trained on Red Hat’s large amounts of data, generated over many years. The data is a combination of data that was generated by supported customer deployments of RHEL and customer-provided, anonymized configuration information. Customers then specify the anonymized operations data that they will share with Red Hat — and customers will determine which Insights Rules they want to use to scan their systems.
- Web Console: The Web Console was designed to reduce repetitive administrative tasks related to system-level monitoring and maintenance. It is used for troubleshooting issues, without having to resort to elaborate scripts to do so.
- Application Streams: Provides developers with streamlined access to high-quality open source development tools. RHEL 8 delivers multiple versions and updates of supported, popular open source language frameworks and databases. Application Streams are delivered independently of RHEL releases, so that user space items can be updated between RHEL releases.
A Closer Look at OpenShift 4
The shift towards enterprises focusing on executing multi-cloud strategy has evolved since OpenShift 3 was released in 2015. To succeed with creating a multi-cloud strategy, containerization based on open standards is critical. These open-source based containerized workloads can be moved across different on premises and cloud environments.
Red Hat executives believe OpenShift 4’s new automation and self-managing features will help the company capture more market and mind share in the multi-cloud market space. The focus of OpenShift 4 is hybrid cloud and multi-cloud. By adding abstraction and automation, Red Hat intends to make containerization easier than before – and to grow its presence during the next wave of customer adoption of multi-cloud technologies.
Key features of OpenShift 4 include:
- Automatic software updates and lifecycle management for self-managing deployments. These OpenShift features support both RHEL and Red Hat Enterprise Linux CoreOS operating environments.
- Support for adaptability, and support for heterogeneous hybrid clouds. Red Hat will support the following public clouds: Alibaba, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, IBM Cloud, Microsoft Azure – and many regional, geo-specific clouds.
- Streamlined full-stack installation. This includes an automated process makes it easier to get started with enterprise Kubernetes.
- Simplified application deployments and lifecycle management with Kubernetes Operators, as provided by ISVs and Red Hat partners. This supports automation of application maintenance, scaling and failover.
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux CoreOS. Technology from CoreOS, a company that Red Hat acquired in 2018, provides expanded choice for enterprises that are deploying enterprise-grade Kubernetes. The CoreOS software offers a lightweight, fully immutable, container-optimized Linux OS distribution that can be optimized for automated administration.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) is the original engine propelling Red Hat to a leading marketing position in the enterprise Linux space. RHEL provides the foundation for the rest of the Red Hat software portfolio, including middleware and management software. Red Hat’s competition in the enterprise Linux market includes SUSE’s enterprise Linux release (SLES9); Canonical’s Ubuntu release, which is widely used in CSP sites; and other, regional distributions in Asia/Pacific and EMEA.
Given this competition, Red Hat is betting that its support for multi-cloud, and the growing enterprise shift towards multi-cloud will help the company reach $4 billion in revenue more quickly. To execute on the growing multi-cloud requirement, the company is making it easier for clients to create and manage portable, open-source based, containerized workloads.