Hans Roth was recently appointed as senior vice-president and GM: EMEA at Red Hat. Channelwise caught up with him to talk about how the open source industry in general, and Red Hat in particular, are positioned in the dynamic post-Covid world.
The last few years have been something of a watershed for IT: first the rapid move to cloud and digitalisation changed the way people think about the role of technology in their business. How is IT positioned today as a business driver?
I think we have all witnessed the era in which IT became a differentiator between organisations in any given industrial segment. Most notably consumers in banking will have in many ways been a part of driving this.
Initially, the internet, and then later, pervasive smartphone usage has driven an expectation that banking should no longer mean going into a branch. And so leveraging IT literally meant the difference between success and extinction. The rapid adoption of cloud technology has certainly accelerated this 24/7 “access anywhere” consumer mindset.
Today however, IT is at the centre. “Born in the cloud” banks are challenging traditional banks for example. Other markets are being disrupted , simply because someone created a digital platform that changed the dynamics of the market forces in that industry.
IT as a business driver is also forcing traditional industries to rethink what they are. The automotive industry is a case in point. Cars are now moving digital platforms, and car makers have had to become software companies. The Internet of Things (IoT) is driving a rethink of what is possible as cars start to communicate with the cloud, other cars, and IoT devices like sensors, around them.
Of course, as we move to self-driving cars, it all starts to come together as human input is replaced by software. All this requires a highly scalable software infrastructure, on premise, in the cloud, and at the edge, to make it all possible in real time. Software that Red Hat is perfectly positioned to provide our customers, today.
What changes has open source in general, and Red Hat in particular, seen over this period?
The biggest change we have seen in the world of open source over the last 10 years has been the degree to which open source has become the mainstream choice for many enterprises and industries.
Open Source is no longer just an alternative voice to say proprietary software. Today open source is the choice. Examples include Kubernetes for containerisation of applications, blockchain as a digital ledger, and of course Linux itself, which is today so pervasive in almost every aspect of our lives ( even if we don’t know it ).
Open source is winning over proprietary technology and in this year’s The State of Enterprise Open Source 2022 report confirms that: 89% of IT leaders believe enterprise open source is as secure or more secure than proprietary software.
Proprietary software as a percentage of the software already in use in respondents’ organisations is expected to drop eight points over the next two years. That is a huge decline. Over the same period, they expect enterprise open source to shoot up five points, with community-based open source also popping up three points over the same period.
For Red Hat, this has meant a rapid expansion of our software portfolio. Open source dominates in the world of cloud, and Red Hat has been at the forefront of technology developments as enterprises looked to exploit the benefits of cloud as a computing paradigm.
How has this driven greater adoption of the technology?
While access to free software has obvious benefits – be it for individuals, universities, governments or the commercial sector – there is more that drives adoption.
Open source is about more than just “free”. It’s also about “freedom”. Because the source code is available and can be contributed to, software can be translated to local languages for example.
So the opportunities which open source can offer, is not only as a way of saving money, but also to act as a stimulus to an autonomous “in-country” domestic ICT sector and the development of a local ICT skills base.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing companies in the EMEA region in 2022?
In our view there’s a definite skills gap around technology. Technology needs to be used by associates who are sufficiently skilled to drive their business’s digital transformation strategies. We’re still in a ‘snowflake phase’ where we’re setting up pockets of technology excellence – from test to execution phase – but this needs to now happen more broadly and with more impact.
Companies need skills, scalability and end-to-end technology that drives business outcomes. Digital transformation is not just about transformative technology; it’s about so much more than that. Every facet of a business needs to transform, holistically and in synergy with all other business transformation. Culture, for instance, is an important part of digital transformation and requires the same level of attention and effort as, say, customer experience or sales.
Everyone knows digital transformation must happen and thanks in part to the pandemic, almost every company is transforming at some level or another.
How is Red Hat technology poised to help them overcome these challenges?
Red Hat technology provides businesses with three core elements: flexibility, automation and foundation (to build upon). OpenShift is the platform for the open hybrid cloud, while Ansible helps automate. This gives us broadband capabilities in solving for our customers, and underpinning this is Red Hat Enterprise Linux, the foundation.
It’s not just Red Hat technology that is helping our customers – Open culture and leadership enables a meritocracy approach, which allows us to work with and empower the best of the best and allows the strongest ideas to win. This drives winning ideas, products and solutions, and enables solid outcomes with high impact. But it all starts with open leadership. Red Hat’s open source culture is our ‘secret sauce’, so to speak.
Conversely, what are some of the biggest opportunities that organisations should be looking to grasp in 2022?
For many years connectivity hampered digital development in Africa. I think it’s fair to say that this constraint is rapidly disappearing as we see more and more high speed bandwidth permeate the continent. This opens up a raft of new opportunities for digital transformation, including reaching the ability for enterprises to reach their customer base in new ways.
Again, how is Red Hat helping them to achieve their potential?
Red Hat’s software is perfectly positioned to assist our customers across Africa, in order to take advantage of this. We have an enormous customer base of Red Hat Enterprise Linux users across the continent, all of whom now have a powerful starting point for building that next generation digital platform. And with our ever expanding ecosystem of skilled in-country partners, Red Hat is the right choice, from the smallest to the largest of enterprises.
Do you expect any changes in the Red Hat go-to-market strategy in the region?
Our industry is evolving rapidly. Commercial models like software as a service (SAAS) are becoming more pervasive, as customers demand models that better align to their mode of consumption.
In addition, the rapid growth of cloud adoption, and the rise of global cloud hyperscalers has meant that as Red Hat, we must continue to review our go to market models. As an example our global partnerships with Microsoft and AWS, give our mutual customers new choices when it comes to how they consume Red Hat’s technology.
Looking to South Africa, what goals have you set Red Hat in this market?
Our South African business has seen exponential growth over the last five to six years. Our primary goal however must be to never lose sight of our customers. This means remaining vested in their use of our technology, to make sure that they do indeed realise value from that investment, long after the ink has dried on a contract.
And, because we cannot achieve this alone, we place a lot of emphasis on developing a robust partner network, to ensure that our customers have a community of resources and expertise to tap into. It’s the open source way.