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IBM acquired Red Hat in July 2019 for US$34 billion. Since then, one of the largest providers of hybrid cloud technology, together with the leading provider of open source software, has provided one of the central foundations for the technological change that is currently sweeping the industry in particular: Composable software instead of monolithic systems in the hybrid multicloud.

Frank Gens, senior vice president and chief analyst at IDC, was quoted as saying at Acquisition 2019, “IDC expects enterprises to invest heavily in the cloud and in cloud innovation over the next five years. A large and growing portion of that investment will be in open hybrid and multi-cloud environments that enable them to move applications, data and workloads across different environments.”

A conversation with Markus Keppeler, Automation Senior Technical Sales IBM Technology, IBM Germany (Photo Markus Keppeler).

Ulrich Sendler: In the introduction to my new background article series “Composable Software”, I expressed the view that we are currently experiencing a veritable renaissance and a new dawn for industrial software with the arrival of container technology in industry. Do you share this assessment?

Markus Keppeler: With certain reservations. After all, the technology has been available for a number of years and is quite widespread in other areas of the economy. For IBM, it has long been the core of our offering. Traditional software now plays less and less of a role in development. And in industry, this type of software development has also been on the rise for a while. At least if we look at large-scale industry, for example in the automotive sector. But generally speaking, you’re certainly right about the breadth of industry. At the moment, we are seeing an enormous push in digitalization through container software.

Ulrich Sendler: In my research on composable software and container technology, I keep coming across OpenShift from Red Hat, in addition to Linux and Kubernetes. Is that the link between the standards and the cloud platforms of the hyperscalers?

Markus Keppeler: Not the link. Anyone who relies on Kubernetes and Linux for software development must, above all, have the management of the container clusters under control. Here, the platform providers each offer their own tools, services and libraries. If the platform is changed, it is then necessary to switch to the corresponding offerings of the other cloud provider in each case. The more platforms supported, the greater the effort. OpenShift from Red Hat is the open source solution that offers container management on all major platforms. This reduces the effort for developers tremendously. It makes porting almost like flipping a switch. (Image IBM)

Ulrich Sendler: What has changed as a result of IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat?

Markus Keppeler: Essentially, Red Hat’s open source solutions have gained a huge distribution organization in 175 countries with this, which of course strengthens the distribution enormously. And IBM is now in an even better position to offer solutions not only for the hybrid cloud, but also for almost unlimited multiclouds. Red Hat, after all, has remained completely independent organizationally, is still headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina, and maintains its brands, its open source projects and partnerships with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and Alibaba.

Ulrich Sendler: How do you see large monolithic system vendors evolving in the future? Do you also think that they will have to open up to the new offerings via APIs?

Markus Keppeler: That is definitely the least they can do. Without this step, their customers will soon no longer be satisfied. This applies to all application areas, because really everywhere the industry is now discovering new topics based on Web technology that can be supported by software, and where data must be exchanged with legacy systems. But we are also seeing that a number of providers of such conventional applications are not satisfied with this and actually want to go much further.

Ulrich Sendler: You mean the containerization of large-scale systems? Won’t that take many years?

Markus Keppeler: Yes, I mean the decomposition of these systems into small container apps. This is currently developing into an interesting business area for IBM. We help such providers with tools and consulting, also with AI algorithms, in order to be able to better assess the requirements, to be able to calculate the effort, to understand for which parts containerization brings which benefits in which time frame. And we then also help them to implement this decomposition in practice.

Ulrich Sendler: That sounds to me like a pretty significant role that IBM is playing in the industry again on this issue. Why do you hear so little about it?

Markus Keppeler: After all, we are not selling end products of the IBM brand. IBM is a technology provider whose platforms, tools and methods are used in the development of new software. This inevitably leads to different marketing and less public awareness of our offering.