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The following is an excerpt from the keynote I gave at Red Hat Summit this morning.

The only constant going forward is change.

And as I think back on 2020, it’s hard to avoid the fact that the events of last year disrupted some of the best laid plans. And while building on the expectation that things will proceed to plan is often a risky prospect, being prepared for different outcomes is still very valid. Or as Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, "Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."

At Red Hat, we have to take a hybrid approach to planning - both listening very closely to our customers' immediate needs, as well as working with open source engineering communities for long-term evolution. As you just heard in Paul’s keynote, we are donating more than a half a billion dollars software subscriptions to Boston University and the Mass Open Cloud research efforts. This will help feed more innovation in the open source communities, which we will then shape to make a reality for enterprises to consume.

Investing in this hybrid approach is directly linked to how we approach the market, and how the majority of our customers think about their strategy for the future.

We call this approach open hybrid cloud.

Open hybrid cloud was built on the philosophy that customers want to take advantage of every aspect of cloud computing, from location, to innovation, to economics. And they want a framework to make that manageable and secure for the lifecycle of their applications. Open hybrid cloud is that framework, and it has shaped how we’ve evolved the Red Hat portfolio over the years.

But 2020 certainly taught us that the path to the future is rarely a straight line. Change can often blur the line, but it can also put a fine point on some aspects of it as well.

More than anything, in 2020, the vast majority of our customers reinforced to us that hybrid cloud would be their path forward, whether that was an intentional architecture choice or a result of rapid market changes. A hybrid approach was required to handle the unprecedented events that didn’t allow the time for a replan or a new architecture. Our customers had to effectively leverage all of their resources to respond, regardless of their industry.

  • Logistics companies had to deal with delivery volumes as if every day was Black Friday.

  • Manufacturing companies had to retool to support unexpected pandemic needs.

  • Healthcare companies had to reimagine how to use data to accelerate care.

  • And 5G became reality, not just on our phones, but for new applications on the edge.

  • We found our customers dealing with planned events, unexpected changes and things that needed to be accelerated to adapt to the changing landscape. Regardless of conditions or reasoning, hybrid cloud gave our customers the flexibility they needed to succeed.

And at Red Hat, we took multiple steps to help our customers along the way. This work reinforced to us that the investments we are making to our open hybrid cloud portfolio are the right ones to help our customers with their short and long-term success.

To be successful in a world that is changing more rapidly than ever before, you need to build on stable platforms. At Red Hat, these are our foundational platforms of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), OpenShift, and Ansible. And we continue to improve these platforms in many ways to be able to help our customers with their business challenges.

What’s new from Red Hat

Expanding the industry’s leading enterprise Kubernetes platform - Red Hat OpenShift

Let me begin by looking at how OpenShift is evolving. OpenShift is at the core of our open hybrid cloud strategy, and it’s the leading container and cloud-native application platform for hybrid cloud.

2020 was the year that OpenShift really pulled away from the competition, and we’re just getting started as to where it will expand.

Not only have we brought critical workloads like artificial intelligence, machine learning, container-native Java and virtualization to the platform, but we’re expanding where OpenShift will help drive innovation for our customers.

Today, OpenShift is already in use at the majority of Fortune 500 customers. They run mission-critical applications on OpenShift, and confidence in the security of the platform is paramount. Platform security is evolving as quickly as the platform itself and to help keep OpenShift on the forefront of secure container platforms, we’re excited to welcome StackRox, enterprise Kubernetes security, to the Red Hat family. We closed the acquisition in February, and we’re already well into integrating their world-class security not just in OpenShift but across the Red Hat portfolio.

Expanding Red Hat’s managed cloud services offerings

And while the OpenShift platform is powerful, being able to easily consume it as a managed cloud service is an important need for customers. In fact, the fastest growing usage models for OpenShift are our Managed Cloud Service offerings.

To support customers in this need, we are excited to announce the general availability of Red Hat OpenShift Service on AWS. This is the first natively integrated third-party service in AWS, and an outstanding new way for our customers using AWS to get the power of OpenShift for their application portfolio.

This offering creates native cloud provider versions of OpenShift in Amazon Web Services, Azure and IBM in addition to our own existing managed cloud service versions. Not only can you harness the operational power of running OpenShift anywhere, these managed offerings let you offload the expertise of running OpenShift to Red Hat and the cloud providers, while you focus on your business applications.

Our customers have told us that they want to leverage more managed, cloud services than just OpenShift for their applications. And, while offloading the operations of managed services is a benefit, they still need those services to fit into their hybrid cloud architectures. Those services need to be as effective at enabling customers who are deploying in private datacenters as they are for those that deploy in the public clouds. This is at the core of what we deliver with open hybrid cloud, and so today, we’re excited to announce the first of several new managed cloud services that do just that.

These three new, foundational cloud services will enable our customers to build next-generation applications with a focus on distributing data, understanding it and enabling API-driven access to it. All of these will reduce operational complexity by offloading the operations to Red Hat while still being able to easily use them in concert with on- and off-premises OpenShift environments. And all of these areas can be augmented by our ecosystem partners to provide access to best of breed solutions.

The first service, Red Hat OpenShift Streams for Apache Kafka, is focused on distributing data and events to better connect applications running on OpenShift. It can connect applications across clouds and across datacenters quickly and securely to accelerate your developers without having to specialize in running Apache Kafka at scale. Local connectors will seamlessly integrate data from environments wherever you run them to stream to a managed cloud service run by Red Hat in the location of your choosing. (Learn more about Red Hat OpenShift Streams for Apache Kafka.)

The next service, Red Hat OpenShift Data Science, helps you understand that data. Our fastest growing workloads on OpenShift are related to Data Science including Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Analytics. And Red Hat OpenShift Data Science makes this easier by providing developer and data science teams with an environment and experience for building data science workflows. (Learn more about Red Hat OpenShift Data Science.)

You can think of Red Hat OpenShift Streams as getting data to the various locations you need in a hybrid environment and Red Hat OpenShift Data Science as letting you leverage innovative open source tooling as well as key partner integrations to then better understand it.

And finally, the nature of how we are building our next generation applications is more distributed. Today's applications talk to more services than ever, all via APIs. Those APIs provide access to the data that drives our applications. Controlling access, understanding consumption and guiding usage are all critical to making these services operate as a solution. Today we're making it easier to manage all those APIs, with Red Hat OpenShift API Management. (Learn more about Red Hat OpenShift API Management.)

These foundational cloud services will not only enable our customers, but they will unlock new opportunities for our ecosystem partners to help Red Hat deliver the open hybrid cloud. Our ecosystem partners bring best of breed solutions that are tightly integrated with these services. For example, in Red Hat OpenShift Data Science, our certified ecosystem provides enhancements such as adding IBM Watson Studio or Seldon Deploy to augment creation and management of AI models. But it also could include integrating other SaaS offerings such as Anaconda Commercial Edition or Starburst Galaxy. Or if you are planning on using the Red Hat OpenShift Service on AWS, our hardware partners shine through with NVIDIA GPU support to accelerate any of your data science workflows.

These powerful application services, available on-demand and fully managed in the cloud, enhance OpenShift’s ability to enable a broad set of critical applications. As more managed services move to the open hybrid cloud, both from Red Hat and our partners, it only accelerates our customers’ ability to build their next-generation applications, regardless of where they run those apps.

Introducing Red Hat Edge + new edge-native capabilities

Now I want to talk about the next frontier in how companies are engaging with their customers, interacting with data and really reshaping how they do business - the Edge.

And while the market figures out how to harness the power of increased bandwidth, increased computing power in new places and increased density of devices, we already know a few things are going to be critical to the success of Edge:

  • the power of innovation from open source

  • the ubiquity of Linux for applications

  • the need for always-on security

  • and the importance of managing vast fleets of devices at scale.

For over two decades, RHEL has taught us how to manage vast ecosystems of applications on Linux, how to automate the updates of devices and how to ensure security of environments. 10’s of thousands of companies around the world rely on RHEL to run their most mission-critical business applications.

But demands on Linux are evolving, and Red Hat has always been at the forefront of Linux evolution. And to address many Edge use cases, new technologies like containers and fleet management are also needed. With this in mind, we’re excited to announce Red Hat Edge. From our leadership in containers, to our leadership in immutability, to our leadership in new security paradigms for fast-moving applications, we are bringing these capabilities together to meet the new demands of the edge.

Red Hat Edge is a portfolio-wide extension of our open hybrid cloud strategy, and it starts with Linux. Building on the announcements in November of last year, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8.4 expands RHEL capabilities to be a lightweight, edge-native operating system. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8.4 has added enhancements to streamline OS image generation and simplify management of updates using container images. And we are not only working with customers to help them expand their deployments to the edge with confidence, but many edge solutions are delivered through partners with Linux embedded as a key component. We are rolling up our sleeves with key partners to enhance their solutions with the secure, stable and agile platform they need in their industry.

Edge deployments are often pushing the boundaries of what is possible with technology today. And Red Hat and IBM are working together on one of those boundaries by bringing advanced navigational capabilities to the sea, where so much economic commerce happens every day for people around the world.

The Mayflower Autonomous Shipping Project is attempting to show the capabilities of artificial intelligence on unmanned ships by replicating the voyage of the Mayflower, 400 years later. In collaboration with the marine research organization ProMare and IBM, we are exploring ways of utilizing edge technologies that will profoundly alter the shipping industry and the future of oceanographic research. At launch, we will see the power of RHEL in supporting a truly disconnected edge use-case, navigating an unmanned ship from Plymouth, England, to Plymouth, Massachusetts.

But our work in Edge doesn’t stop with RHEL. We’ve introduced a small footprint OpenShift, with 3-node clusters already available and we’re working towards minimizing this to single nodes for various deployments. In fact, IBM is using this technology to bring single-node OpenShift clusters to the International Space Station to help with DNA sequencing, connected back to the IBM Cloud on Earth.

And while limited connectivity might be the reality at sea or in space, 5G deployments are pushing the boundaries of what is possible on Earth. We are bringing RHEL and OpenShift capabilities to our Telco customers to enable a broad set of 5G use-cases. We are leveraging the experience we have built in telecommunications with OpenStack, running their core networks and helping them extend those to their 5G deployments.

One of the things that excites me the most about Edge is the diversity of use cases, from in-vehicle operating systems to telecommunications to industrial automation. And together, OpenShift and RHEL are enabling these deployments, whether disconnected or tethered to a next generation 5G network. But more importantly, they provide a consistent way for enterprises to write applications to address their needs today and tomorrow. Our goal is that the investments our customers are making in OpenShift and RHEL today will allow them to easily expand to edge use cases when they are ready.

We’ve talked about how Red Hat continues to evolve open hybrid cloud, as our customers' usage patterns change, expand and accelerate. And we’ve talked about how the Edge is the new frontier of the open hybrid cloud, with new use-cases that build on the foundations of open source and Linux, combined with some unique new innovations.

Introducing new innovations to automate and scale hybrid cloud operations

But hybrid deployments are not possible without highly automated operations that can integrate today’s and tomorrow’s applications, and also scale and adapt to entirely new locations.

This is where Red Hat has been making investments to bring together the power of automation with advanced analytics, specifically integrating Ansible Automation Platform, Red Hat Advanced Cluster Management and Red Hat Insights. This integration provides several key benefits in supporting your investments of today and tomorrow.

First, it manages the hybrid cloud consistently from one cloud to the next, whether it’s on-premises, in the public cloud or it’s a Red Hat managed cloud service. You don’t lose management capabilities by changing your preferred consumption model.

Second, it extends the power of Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform with its automation capabilities into completely new workflows, especially for applications that are made up of both containerized applications and non-containerized applications and services.

Third, it brings advanced analytics and recommendations to Operations and Security teams, through the extension of our Insights program to an increasing portion of the portfolio. We have worked to instrument both RHEL and OpenShift to better understand running workloads in these new use cases and help guide our customers with our learnings.

Finally, it brings together the scalability of Red Hat Advanced Cluster Management to manage fleets at the edge, with the automated provisioning and security of Ansible.

The Ansible Automation Platform is a key component of realizing the vision of open hybrid cloud by being the connective tissue in managing the applications you have today in concert with the applications you are building for tomorrow.

Enabling customer success and innovations no matter what changes come next

Red Hat is here to help make our customers' businesses successful, and this last year has reinforced the importance of being there for our customers in good times and challenging times.

We continue to see how critical the flexibility of open hybrid cloud is to our customers. You need the best of open source, combined with the best of any cloud, combined with frameworks to enable applications to drive business success. We’re excited about how we’re evolving our product portfolio to meet you where you need the open hybrid cloud to be.

With great challenges come great opportunities and great innovations.

For 15 years, we’ve recognized innovative uses of Red Hat’s open source technology through the Red Hat Innovation Awards program. This year, our nominees range from healthcare organizations fighting COVID-19, to government organizations protecting personal data, to automakers testing virtual components, to payroll for teachers. We’re proud to recognize these customers as Red Hat Innovation Award winners, and hope you’ll join us tomorrow when we announce the 2021 Innovator of the Year.

We could not be more excited to see what our customers build next, and to be there to support them every step of the way.

Being able to participate in the amazing process of bringing open source innovation to enterprises is both humbling and inspiring. Our work truly begins by building on the innovation in our open source communities and is then extended by our customers innovating into practically every aspect of our lives today. We are proud to serve as the linchpin, connecting these two worlds with open hybrid cloud and influencing the evolution of open source for the future. We are excited to work with all of you to realize your next ideas in 2021 and beyond!


About the author

Joining Red Hat in 2005, Hicks has experienced its growth from a single product company to the multi-billion dollar enterprise it is today. He was also one of the founding members of the OpenShift team and has been on the forefront of cloud computing ever since.