When it comes to Kubernetes, IBM will follow Red Hat's lead


(CNCF Photo)

One of the big questions around IBM’s $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat earlier this year was whether or not Red Hat would become more like Red Hat, or if Red Hat would become more like IBM. As Kubernetes continues to evolve into a key pillar of modern enterprise tech infrastructure, IBM is shutting down one of its earlier attempts to bring cloud-native ideas to companies running its older apps.

After the deal closed in July, IBM and Red Hat agreed that Red Hat’s OpenShift managed platform would be the company’s Kubernetes strategy going forward, said Joe Fernandes, VP of products for Cloud Platforms at Red Hat, in an interview at KubeCon 2019 last week in San Diego. That means that IBM Cloud Private, which Big Blue had pushed for several years as its answer for bringing the Kubernetes revolution to old-school IT customers, is shutting down.

“Our direction is to unify on a single Kubernetes platform,” Fernandes said. The decision is in some ways a no-brainer: IBM did not have significant traction for IBM Cloud Private, while OpenShift has been one of the faster-growing parts of Red Hat’s business for several years.

Still, IBM Cloud Private was a big part of IBM’s attempt to prove it could hang with the cloud upstarts, as well as a way to help customers that wanted to move forward into the Kubernetes era stay connected to their older IBM applications. It’s clear that the hybrid cloud is here to stay as more and more companies show interest in the cloud but decide they can’t afford to risk moving older applications tied to on-premises hardware, but it’s also clear there aren’t a lot of new companies building their technology strategy around IBM software.

An IBM representative confirmed that IBM Private Cloud would be shutting down and that existing customers will be provided with some tips to migrating to IBM Cloud Pak for Applications, which runs on OpenShift. IBM introduced Cloud Paks in August as one of its first post-close product launches, and there are Cloud Paks running on top of OpenShift that combine traditional IBM software across segments like as security, data, and automation.

(L to R): Jim Whitehurst, CEO, Red Hat; Ginni Rommety, CEO, IBM (IBM Photo)

Fernandes was careful to note that while the companies are coming together on Kubernetes, Red Hat will maintain some independence as the companies move forward, a notion echoed by another senior Red Hat employee later in the week. That message is likely in response to concern from some quarters that IBM would try and use Red Hat customers to bolster its public cloud service, which lags the Big Three providers by a huge margin.

Red Hat will continue to support and even co-develop products with IBM’s cloud competitors, namely Amazon Web Services and Microsoft. That also holds true for consulting partners like Accenture and Deloitte, which compete with IBM’s massive services operation, Fernandes said.

Still, Red Hat’s experience with containers and Kubernetes far exceeds IBM’s. Red Hat currently has 1,000 customers running Kubernetes, dozens of which are big public companies, “running mission-critical production operations in Kubernetes today,” Fernandes said.

(Disclosure: The Cloud Native Computing Foundation paid for my travel to San Diego for KubeCon 2019.)