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When reflecting on 2020, I do what many people do and think about what things were like prior to this year.  For me, I immediately go back to a spring day three years ago. Red Hat was hosting our EMEA Partner Conference; a mix of distributors, independent software vendors (ISVs), system integrators and solution providers from across the region. Alongside the usual product updates and market insight sessions you might expect, we decided to do a little drumming. A lot of drumming, in fact — 900 people banging bongos and clashing cymbals. Other than the noise, what I remember was the genuine sense of togetherness; embarrassment and egos put to the side in the pursuit of the perfect tempo.

It seems drumming is a good signal of solidarity. Even in a large group, it’s easy to notice someone beating to a different rhythm. Trainers and coaches use this drumming technique frequently to promote unity and coordination. Our coach that day later congratulated me on "having such a tight knit group of employees." When I told him they weren’t our employees but partners from 550 different companies, he couldn’t believe it. 

This sense of togetherness with our partners has only grown stronger since our drumming days. This past year has brought many challenges, but my overriding memory of 2020 is the harmony between Red Hat and our partner ecosystem. Our partners are at the frontline, a particularly challenging role in 2020. At any other time they’d be regular fixtures at businesses using our software; exploring, deploying, training, and celebrating by their side. All of that has had to be done virtually and our partners have powered through.

As we end 2020, I’ve never seen spirits higher. Partners are excited, looking forward to next year and new possibilities with Red Hat. We know because they’ve told us. Many have said, "We miss you." To all our partners, we miss you, too. 

Partner relations like this don’t happen by accident. Most, I’d argue, are no more than commercial networks of mutual financial benefit, but at Red Hat we’ve always aimed to go beyond the transactional and establish a true community of collaborators. Our approach with partners is an extension of our open source principles. When we build together we become stronger together. In less abstract terms, it is about genuinely caring. 

That’s why when COVID came and lockdowns were in place, we moved all our partner training and events online. Anticipating that our partners would be doing the same with their customers, we also created new training to improve their video presentation skills. It’s why joint business plans are never created by ‘one of them and one of us’, but by entire management teams from both sides. And why we let partners under the bonnet of our open culture, educating them about how to innovate using our Open Decision Framework. It’s why we like to go drumming together!

And when you have this depth of togetherness, amazing things happen. Our partners become co-creators, enthused and empowered to find competitive advantages for their customers and new ways to disrupt their markets. 

Today we have about 3,000 partners across EMEA, working across the entire Red Hat portfolio. Some have been with us from our earliest releases of Red Hat Enterprise Linux; others are just joining us, eager to make their mark in the DevOps revolution with Red Hat  OpenShift. 

Here’s the thing about real communities: all sides win. Red Hat OpenShift has become the industry’s leading enterprise Kubernetes platform, an achievement made possible by the unwavering support of our partners. We worked closely with our partners to understand their needs and provided an open source platform to meet those needs. 

2020 has been memorable for many reasons, both good and bad. For me, it’s been a reminder of how much we value the close relationships we have with our partners. We miss our partners, professionally and personally. Absence has made the heart grow fonder. Or, to paraphrase another proverb, when the going got tough, the tough stuck together. With this in mind, we can enter 2021 confident and optimistic of what we can achieve together

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