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Red Hat CEO Paul Cormier | Red Hat Summit 2020


In this special edition of TFiR Newsroom, we are offering exclusive interviews from the Red Hat Summit. In this interview, Paul Cormier, CEO, and Chairman of Red Hat talks about how Red Hat is maintaining neutrality in working with partners as part of IBM.

An abridged transcript of the interview.

Swapnil Bhartiya: As part of IBM, what kind of company are you leading?
Paul Cormier: I would define it as a separate company, as a wholly-owned sub. In legal terms, I don’t believe it’s a wholly-owned sub, but that’s how we run it, as separate. We set our own strategy, we set our own road maps, it’s completely up to us. We stayed as a self-contained company; we still have certainly our own engineering, our own product lines, we even have our own back office, we have HR, legal, our own finance, all pieces to be a separate company. It’s very much like VMware is to Dell, or LinkedIn is to Microsoft; it’s very much like that.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Right, and when it all started it was a Linux company. What kind of company is it today?
Paul Cormier: I say this all the time when Red Hat started it was a Linux company, once we made the switch to REL I really like to think about it as an enterprise software company with an open source development model. I think that’s a better way to think about what RedHat is, because it’s all about enterprise software. We run our customer’s business. It’s all about giving them performance and the SLAs, and the functions, and the features that they need to run their business on. What makes us very unique, is we have a completely open source software development model. That’s our development model; open source is, it’s not a thing, it’s an action.

Swapnil Bhartiya:  If you look at this crisis that we are going through, a lot of people have suddenly started talking about digital transformation, moving to the cloud, and this is something that we have been talking about for a while. Move to the cloud, do all those things. Then we look at most of these workloads, most of these runs on some kind of Linux, whatever you talk about. If you look at RHEL’s role, or RedHat’s role, post this crisis, what would the infrastructure look like, because this is going to change how people think about building their infrastructure.
Paul Cormier: One of the things that we started with, and one of the interesting things is, when we started with REL it was really a commodity play. It was really about we can give you an almost as good platform as Unix but for a fraction of the cost, and what happened over time was that because… Actually, Linux went by Unix a long time ago in terms of features, function, performance, all that, but what really happened is because Linux was so available, so performant and such, that it became the innovation engine.

All the technologies that you talk about now in the infrastructure and the development side, in the tools side, it’s all built-in and around Linux, because it’s out there. Now what we do, as a company, now that we’ve added the portfolio around our platforms of REL, OpenShift, OpenStack… OpenShift is still, at the heart of it, it’s still a Linux platform. Its containers are Linux. We’ve built everything around that. All the innovation’s now around that, so we’ve turned it, really, into an innovation play. That’s where all of the innovation is.

In terms of the cloud, when the cloud-first came on scene 10 or 12 years ago, the cloud providers might have told you that every application was going to move to their cloud tomorrow. We, at the time, knew that wasn’t very practical, and so we started building to this hybrid architecture then.

By hybrid, we mean there’s going to be applications and workloads that are going to run on physical machines, on virtual machines, maybe on top of VMware. There’s going to be private clouds, there’s going to be multiple public clouds, being able to run the application, being able to build the application, operate the application, secure the application, manage the application.

When running across all those footprints, as opposed to having five different aisles, that’s what hybrid means. As customers started to bring the cloud into their environment, as part of their environment, as opposed to their entire environment, that’s when they started to recognize that hybrid was the only way, as well.

That’s where we are right now, and whether it’s… In terms of the crisis, we’re in right now, some people believe it’s going to drive workloads more quickly to the cloud, other people believe that it’s going to do the opposite, and it’s going to keep workloads on-premise, because just for a whole bunch of different reasons, we don’t care.

It doesn’t matter for us whether it’s 20% on-premise, 20% in the cloud 80% on-premise, or 60/40, 50/50, it really doesn’t matter to us. It’s still a hybrid world. I can’t predict if the COVID thing is going to push people to the cloud more quickly or more slowly, but we don’t care, it doesn’t matter. For us it’s the same value proposition.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Right. A few things have changed since Red Hat joined the IBM family; now you also have access to the cloud, as well.
Paul Cormier: Which cloud?

Swapnil Bhartiya: IBM’s cloud.
Paul Cormier: IBM’s cloud, to us, is a partner cloud.

Swapnil Bhartiya: No, that’s not what I meant-
Paul Cormier: We don’t have any different access to IBM’s cloud than we did prior to the acquisition. IBM is a private-

Swapnil Bhartiya: There where I’m headed to. How do you maintain the balance, because you also work with a lot of players who may be IBM’s competitors and IBM also works with a lot of players that compete with Red Hat?
Paul Cormier: That’s why separate is so important to both RedHat and IBM. If you saw my keynote yesterday, you saw me with Scott Guthrie from Microsoft, talking about integrating Arc with OpenShift. IBM didn’t even know that that was happening. We did not tell IBM that, that was happening, because while we were working on it, it was confidential.

Think about it, as well; we’re big on Intel platforms, we’re also big on IBM Z, IBM I, IBM P. We had to show Intel that we would not give their secrets to the IBM side. We know Intel’s road maps were under NDA, we know Intel’s road maps a long time before they’re implemented. We have to, so we can support them in REL. You hit the heart of the issue, that is the most important reason that we must remain separate; so that those partner ecosystems remain.

I think what we did with Microsoft this week is a testament to that, really.

Swapnil Bhartiya: That’s one of the reasons that I wanted to ask these questions, to get a clearer idea. Can you talk about some of the major announcements from this conference that you are really interested in?
Paul Cormier: We chose to not announce a lot of the releases that we normally would, just because it’s such a different world right now. I don’t know if you saw the demo today, with Burt Sutter? It was great. We’re bringing virtualization to the Kubernetes container world.

I think that was one of the big things that we talked about and we showed, and we’re really bringing this forward-looking Kubernetes architecture, we’re bringing forward now bringing VMs into that, as opposed to some of our competitors that are trying to bring containers back to their world. We’re moving it in that… you know, taking it forward.

I think that was a big one; we’re integrated into OpenShift, so it’s no additional cost to OpenShift. I think we can really help our customers consolidate their spend in this space, as well. We’re focusing on telco 5G use cases on the OpenShift platform. If you saw my interview with Verizon on that, we’re doing a lot of work with Verizon and the other telcos, as well. That’s one thing.

We talked about advanced cluster management on Kubernetes this week, with ACM. Now as customers are really bringing out hybrid implementations, and having OpenShift with containers running in different places, being able to manage cross clusters with that becomes really, really important.

Of course, OpenShift 4.4 that we talked about this week. We scoped it down to rallying around those three big points this week, in terms of what we talked about, what we announced, and what we demoed, all of that. We usually have a long list of product announcements, and so, we really cut that down based on where we are right now.