Unfortunately for Big Bang Theory fans everywhere, this is not another instalment of Chuck Lorre’s masterpiece.
So much has been written about the short and long-term significance of IBM’s Red Hat acquisition on the hybrid cloud landscape. Speculation suggests that IBM is well positioned for the next generation platform play that creates seamless computing across all clouds – public and on premise. There’s no doubt that this poses a great opportunity for IBM, but what has garnered far less contemplation is the impact on the fundamental Practice of IT: delivering business functionality by way of applications.
Over the past few years, we have all heard the now familiar story: executives and techies alike bought the “it’s going to be so much cheaper and simpler in the public cloud” line and rushed to move workloads to the public cloud. Soon, the realization that it often wasn’t cheaper, and it certainly wasn’t simpler set in. The next episode in this ongoing saga was: OK then, cloud is about agility and innovation. We will build cloud native applications and that will be all we need to do. No more datacenters, no more mainframes, no more traditional apps. Life is good.
But if you look at the industry today, many companies are taking stock of the 5% or so share of their application portfolio that has been made cloud native and asking the question “Now what??!! At this rate, it will take us another 10 years or more to modernize our portfolio and it will cost us how much??!!” While large, established enterprises are struggling with these questions, lean and mean upstarts are disrupting their business because they can.
Gartner defines the current phase of the transformation as “modernize the core”. Now that we’ve had a taste of what public cloud is and what it isn’t, it is clear that for most existing large enterprises, the future is hybrid. It is time to modernize the application portfolio that is truly core to business success and that by and large is still untouched. The question is, how to go about doing this without impacting critical business functions or breaking the bank?
Enter Red Hat and IBM. I believe that the addition of IBM to Red Hat is at least as important to the application world, as the addition of Red Hat to IBM is for the balance of powers in the hybrid cloud arena, if not more so.
Red Hat’s OpenShift is the industry leading container platform (see Gartner Magic Quadrant or Forrester Wave). It is also a PaaS, offering a vast catalog of mostly open source-based middleware. As such, it is arguably one of the leading development platforms for cloud native workloads. What about dealing with existing, traditional workloads? Again, OpenShift is designed to handle non cloud-native, stateful applications with ease. So, where does IBM fit in?
A staggering number of the world’s business applications run on IBM middleware. Up until now, there were only a few options available to move forward: stay on very expensive, very traditional platforms like WebSphere’s AS ND, refactor as cloud native applications, or migrate to functionally equivalent open source alternatives like jBoss, tomcat, etc. The latter two options were some of the most frequent use cases for OpenShift.
IBM and Red Hat joining forces means that IBM’s catalog of enterprise middleware is now available on OpenShift. IBM has been working hard over the last few years to containerize their entire portfolio of middleware software – currently the catalog contains more than 100 titles. The immediate implication is that a clear roadmap now exists for business applications using traditional IBM middleware, and that path does not involve ripping everything out and building from scratch.
In addition to the catalog itself, IBM also brings the depth and breadth of its expertise, as well as a large selection of tools like the Transformation Advisor to assist with modernizing java applications.
Does this mean life becomes simpler for those contemplating the mountain of work, the cost, and the risk involved in modernizing the core? Not really. Which is why it is so important to select a partner ecosystem that can guarantee a successful transition.
Large scale acquisitions require years of rationalization and integration, and a strong partner is the ticket to not just navigating this complexity, but to quickly capitalizing on the opportunities at hand. Some of you may have noticed I did not talk specifically about the Windows Server side of your portfolio. This will be the topic of a future post, but, as a preview, I can tell you that there is good news here too. For the past two years, we at HighVail have been helping our clients containerize their legacy Windows apps – making them portable and hardware independent.

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