As Red Hat celebrates 25 years, I would be remiss not to mention the role Red Hat partners have played in our company’s story. Partners have been an important multiplier for Red Hat and building our customer success. They are important to our future.

Early endeavors in the channel

In 2006, I joined Red Hat to expand the partner ecosystem. I’d been working in the channel since Moses was around, or at least since 1981. Although we were mainly selling direct, there was growing confidence that we could make the transformation to support a robust partner ecosystem.

At this time we were working with some Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) like HP, Dell, and IBM, who were installing Red Hat Enterprise Linux on their hardware. In the early years, we also had some equity investors like Intel and SAP who continue to work with us today as partners. So some of our earliest champions have evolved into our longest relationships.

In order to continue to scale, Red Hat needed to work with distributors and resellers. The first call I made was to Peter Larocque, from Synnex, who I’d worked with in the channel for more than 20 years. I introduced him to Red Hat’s upstream open source model, which at the time probably sounded a lot like asking him to get into the business of selling “free” software. He was a little incredulous, but he said he’d give it a try. We had our first distributor partner on board. Six months later, we had our first global reseller. Red Hat was on the map in the channel.

Not long after, Red Hat began generating interest in the industry and among prospective partners through acquisitions and new technologies. We had a growing base of partners, technologies and customers who realized their IT partners could work with Red Hat to: provide full solutions for their business needs (Global Systems Integrators and Independent Software Vendors); offer consumption or pay-as-you go models (Service Providers); take them to the cloud (Certified Cloud and Service Providers); and provide industry expertise beyond open source (including healthcare, financial and telecommunications).

This interest set the stage for the multitiered Red Hat partner program we have today. Our partners solve customer challenges with innovative and supported IT solutions from Red Hat. Partners with their own technologies test and certify their offerings on the Red Hat portfolio of products. Furthermore, we host programs like Red Hat Online Partner Enablement Network (OPEN) to help them succeed.

The role of partners in Red Hat’s success

First and foremost, partners are a major part of our open source community. Many contribute to building the technologies that we deliver to our customers. This is remarkable within the industry, and it really speaks to the open culture of Red Hat.

Also, it’s important to talk about partners when we talk about Red Hat because they’ve helped us become the world’s leading provider of open source solutions. In June, we announced our first quarter earnings for FY19, and we’ve had 65 consecutive quarters of revenue growth. For FY18 we attributed 72 percent of our bookings through the channel.

Our strong base of partners has helped Red Hat to reach $2.9 billion in revenue. We hope to continue to grow while supporting our partners to grow and succeed with us.

Partnering into the future

If you attended Red Hat Summit 2018, it’s exciting to see what the future can hold for Red Hat partners. In his keynote, Paul Cormier, Red Hat’s executive vice president and president of Products and Technologies, outlined how collaboration with partners is a key to helping to make hybrid cloud the enterprise default, as highlighted by announcements with Microsoft and IBM. Our new mission, making IT’s four footprints immaterial, can be achieved with the help of our partners.  

In all my years of working with partners, one of the things I’ve seen is that they can change to address their markets and customers, the same as Red Hat. So even as our focus changes, as it often does, Red Hat’s collaboration with our partners is designed to remain constant. That being said, a few areas of current focus include:  

  • Emerging open source technologies that are designed to differentiate our partners and solve their customers’ challenges. Partners are already building businesses around Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform, Red Hat Ansible and other offerings.

  • Market expansion opportunities led by partners. We’re providing resources to help partners capture small and medium enterprise customers, and to better address the market in this space.

  • Continued resources, training, and enablement our partners need to help grow their open source business. We’ve launched a new learning management system to help partners obtain accreditation across Red Hat’s technology portfolio. We’re providing partners with an expanded array of sales and marketing content, and we’re working towards a more unified, digital, and mobile-optimized experience.

A message for partners

There is a saying that there are companies with partner organizations and companies that partner; the latter being more successful. We are on this journey to being a company that partners and have come a long way towards it. It is not always easy, but we are focused on making it happen.

The one thing I am most proud of is the patience and loyalty our partners have shown us as we’ve innovated together. They’ve stayed with us as we navigated new technologies and new ways to work together. For that, I am truly humbled and grateful. So if there is one thing I could say to them, it would have to be “thank you.” Together, we’ll continue to help shape the open source industry.

Learn more about the Red Hat partner program.

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