October 22, 2014

How Red Hat is Transforming from a Server-Client to Cloud-Mobile Leader


Red Hat has become a role model for other companies by writing a success story based on open source software and Linux, without a single proprietary component in the soup.

The company continues to evolve and transform itself with the changing times to remain a leader, and not simply relevant, unlike many other software giants that are struggling in the market.

mike piech red hat

Everyone is moving towards cloud and mobile; the consumer space has totally switched gears to cloud and mobile, and enterprises aren't far behind. Thomas E. Hogan, CEO of Kony Inc., said a few weeks ago, “With the number of mobile applications downloaded from app stores expected to increase by a 31.7 percent CAGR by 2017, enterprises are realizing that a mobile strategy is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must have."

Talking about the growth of mobile and cloud, Mike Piech, general manager of middleware at Red Hat, tells me, “Industry analyst firm IDC expects 1.2 billion smartphones to ship in 2014, representing 19.3 percent growth over 2013. They predict the mobile application platform market will grow 38.7 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from $1.4 billion in 2013 to $4.8 billion by 2017. Our customers and prospects have been steadily increasing their demand for mobile capabilities, consistent with IDC’s and other analysts’ predictions of sustained growth in this segment for the foreseeable future."

“To capitalize on mobile opportunities, organizations need a mobile-led strategy with support from the top,” Venture Beat quoted Stacy Crook, research director, Mobile Enterprise Software IDC. That’s where Red Hat is going; the company is responding to the market in a very aggressive manner. They recently announced the acquisition of FeedHenry, a mobile application company. A few days later, Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst shared the company’s strategy of moving from a client-server to cloud-mobile space.

FeedHenry may be the first acquisition with many more to come, but how does it fit into the whole cloud-mobile picture? Piech explains, “Jim Whitehurst described “a major shift from client-server to cloud-mobile” as a phenomenon happening in the market and Red Hat’s opportunity as ”to establish open source as the default choice of this next era, and to position Red Hat as the provider of choice for enterprises’ entire cloud infrastructure.“

FeedHenry substantially expands [Red Hat’s] JBoss Middleware [and OpenShift PaaS] mobile capabilities. Given the shifting emphasis of many enterprises toward ”mobile first“ in their app development, the acquisition of FeedHenry is very much aligned with and strategic toward the goal of being the provider of choice in this new environment.”

What does it mean for Red Hat?

Red Hat is traditionally known as a client-server company and in order to understand how they make the shift we need to understand the difference between the client-server and cloud-mobile models.

The core difference is that cloud offers more universal access to data and applications than the server. It implies “greater agility in responding to business needs, and greater elasticity in responding to growing or fluctuating demand,” says Piech.

The second piece is mobile, which as opposed to simply client, explains Piech, “connotes support for a wider variety of client devices than traditional desktops, as well as specialized capabilities such as synchronization for offline use and push notifications.”

As enterprises realize the need of cloud and mobile, they require assistance and consultation for the migration. Red Hat is ready. Piech says, “Red Hat offers consulting services to help customers assess needs as well as design and implement solutions; we also work with a broad ecosystem of partners to provide customers with widest possible array of options to meet their needs."

Who is moving to cloud-mobile?

If we look at a few of the success stories of FeedHenry, we come across the deployment by the European Rail organization where they used mobile solutions for engineers. That’s a very focused use-case, so the question arises who else could be the potential candidate for cloud-mobile? Piech opines, “A given enterprise’s needs for either or both of cloud-enabled agility or mobile-enabled client flexibility are what drive it towards the more modern cloud-mobile approach.”

He also adds that the shift is not concentrated in particular areas. There is a lot of interest in government and financial services including lots of demand in sectors such as health care, manufacturing, and media.

Mobile-cloud offers a wide range of solutions to enterprise customers, depending on what they need and how they want to benefit from it. Piech says, “There are both B2E (business-to-employee) apps that enable employees on the road to carry out tasks such as customer data look-up, order placement, and inventory management; there are also many B2B and B2C apps where enterprises enable their customers and partners to learn about, order, and even consume products and services through mobile devices.”

Open Source at the center stage

Open Source remains at the heart of Red Hat and it’s not going to change with mobile-cloud. Red Hat will be open sourcing FeedHenry the way they open sourced other proprietary technologies they acquired.

The company has been involved with the AeroGear community project of open source mobile libraries for several years and it expects to continue supporting that effort. As Red Hat transforms, we can expect to see more involvement with other open source projects from the cloud and mobile spaces. It’s already happening; the company recently joined hands with ownCloud for its storage server solutions.

Piech says, “The lion’s share of innovation in cloud is already happening in open source, with notable examples including OpenStack, Docker, OpenShift Origin, Kubernetes, and Mesos to name just a few. Similarly, the majority of innovation happening in mobile is in open source communities such as Android, jQuery, node.js, Apache Cordova, Sencha Touch, Backbone, etc. Red Hat is already active in many of these communities and will remain active in supporting open source communities and technology.”

When asked about the unique selling point or strengths of Red Hat which gives them an edge over competitors, Piech avers, “Red Hat has depth of expertise and proven technologies in a unique combination of stack layers, including operating system, virtualization, cloud, and development platforms. And all of these technologies are 100 percent open source, meaning no lock-in and the agility of community-powered innovation. Our product offerings allow customers to access data and services deep in the enterprise and integrate with their core business workflows and rules.”


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