Just weeks after having closed the landmark acquisition of Red Hat, IBM recently made a major announcement on how it has transformed its software portfolio to be cloud-native and optimised to run on Red Hat OpenShift. To get a better idea on why this is important and what it means for IBM’s strategy in the region going forward, DSA interviewed Prashant Pradhan, Vice President & CTO of IBM Asia Pacific.
To provide a bit of context, Prashant started off by explaining that OpenShift is an open standards-based technology that allows workloads to run on any cloud, anywhere, that supports that open technology. This, of course, includes all the leading public clouds – AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, Alibaba Cloud as well as IBM’s own IBM Cloud.
He said the initial push to cloud was more focused on optimising cost and reaping the benefits of cloud for smaller applications and workloads (which Prashant said typically comprised of only 20% of an enterprise’s entire workload). But now, with the major transformation to IBM’s extensive software portfolio, which already runs mission-critical applications for so many businesses globally, enterprises can finally move the remaining 80% of their mission-critical workloads to cloud.
As Prashant elaborated further, “This allows all of those workloads to also enjoy the same benefits of cloud, which means they can run anywhere, utilise things like elasticity, speed, agility of cloud, in a truly hybrid environment.”
When Transitioning to Cloud-Native, Containerisation is Key
The idea of making IBM’s enterprise software “cloud-native” and moving it on Red Hat OpenShift basically means that the software is now containerised – packaged as lightweight containers that can be moved to any cloud that supports open container standards. Prashant added, “These containers can then be orchestrated, for example, for them to take benefit of elasticity of your infrastructure. They can be moved around, scaled up or down, heal automatically, and so forth – all the fundamentals of cloud-native applications.”
For now, IBM has announced five significant elements of its portfolio – enterprise mission-critical software packaged as cloud-native and running on OpenShift – called Cloud Paks. To recap from the official press release, the first five IBM Cloud Paks include:
· Cloud Pak for Data to simplify and automate how organisations deliver insights from their data and provide an open and extensible architecture to virtualise data for AI 500% faster.
· Cloud Pak for Applications to help businesses modernise, build, deploy and run applications. It helped IBM customers in the fintech sector reduce development time by 84%.
· Cloud Pak for Integration to help integrate apps, data, cloud services and APIs. It is designed to eliminate 33% of integration costs.
· Cloud Pak for Automation to help transform business processes, decisions and content. A banking client was able to reduce manual processes by 80%.
· Cloud Pak for Multi-cloud Management to provide multi-cloud visibility, governance and automation. It was able to help clients reduce operational expenses of supporting large-scale cloud-native environments by 75%.
Prashant explained that the Cloud Paks represent a significant part of IBM’s enterprise software portfolio. Moving it all to Red Hat OpenShift means that enterprises now have much greater flexibility on their hands, able to build their mission-critical applications just once and run them on any cloud.
Resistance to Open Source Technology
Prashant also pointed out that there is still some misconception that open source is fundamentally not secure or something that enterprises cannot trust to build mission-critical software on. In his view, innovation comes fast with open source and it is often more secure and robust compared to some proprietary software due to the active contributions from the global open source community.
In addition to plugging security and performance issues that may be discovered, he added that this large community of very smart developers “is also very effective in very rapidly putting out all kinds of optimisations, improvements, higher security, etc. If you compare like to like, you can actually see that all the open source software that’s often used in enterprises is extremely secure, robust and that innovation never stops.”
Secondly, he said that when building an enterprise architecture that is designed to work in today’s demanding digital and API economy, it is extremely essential that organisations don’t find themselves locked into proprietary technology. “You want all of those foundational elements (your middleware, operating systems, how you deal with data, what standards you use to access data and what kind of AI models you run on) to be open, not proprietary.”
“And then of course within that architecture, you can have proprietary components that represent a particular enterprise’s own IT, but it’s highly risky to actually create the overall architecture and its foundation on proprietary software,” he continued.
According to Prashant, the trend among enterprises in any industry, especially among born on cloud type of businesses that have been very successful, is a combination of a foundation that is built on open technology, with proprietary or individual IPs that coexist to form part of the architecture.
Best of all, he said migration to a containerised infrastructure is quite straightforward and is “no harder than refactoring your applications to that open, common standard. So we’re actually seeing that clients are migrating faster, not slower, towards those open standards.”
IBM’s ASEAN Strategy
In general, enterprises that IBM serves in ASEAN have similar needs in their IT environments like those from the rest of the world. “They’re also on their path to cloud, they’re trying to be digital, trying to be powered by data and AI, and all of these things, technologically, are enabled through cloud,” said Prashant.
Therefore, he sees the combination of IBM and Red Hat as an enabler that will help enterprises kick start “chapter 2” of their cloud journey.
Much like the rest of the world, clients in this region have been constrained in terms of moving mission-critical workloads to the cloud. Prashant added that many of the clients are customers of a significant portion of IBM’s enterprise portfolio, including solutions for mission-critical middle middleware, automation, integration and API technologies – all the building blocks or foundations of a digital enterprise architecture.
“So the strategy here is no different. We will help enable these clients as well. If anything, this region is moving faster than many other parts of the world in terms of the adoption of digital and how quickly the market requires the enterprises here to become digital and cloud-native,” he remarked.
Moreover, he said IBM is not just providing the software or platforms to enable their journey to cloud. “In addition, we are also providing them with the required assistance in terms of advisory services, services to migrate to cloud, services to build to cloud and services to manage their applications on cloud. We help make the migration process much easier.”
In short, he said clients in this market will be able to accelerate their journey to cloud and digital through what IBM is doing with Red Hat, and they can even do it themselves should they choose to because it is based on transformation to open technology.
Ultimately, Prashant said this has all been done from a client’s lens. Now, enterprises that used to face certain constraints can move fully to cloud and be able to move to cloud in a very secure, efficient manner. Moreover, their investments in building their applications will be significantly protected because it’s a model where you can build once and run anywhere. This provides the necessary flexibility, efficiency and economies of scale, as well as a wide range of cloud benefits for their entire portfolio, not just the 20%.
“This is very exciting for us. A lot of work has gone in leading up to this, and we think we’re at a point where we can really unlock the remaining 80% of workloads and what we call chapter 2 in our clients’ digital transformation,” he concluded.