Opening up the cloud opportunity for channel partners

George DeBono, GM, Middle East and Africa at Red Hat

George DeBono, GM, Middle East and Africa at Red Hat outlines some of the ways in which the open source leader is working with channel partners to lay the foundations for private cloud, hybrid cloud and public cloud deployments through virtualised infrastructures.

The number of virtual servers being shipped has long surpassed the number of physical servers. Virtualisation is a mature market and this creates a challenge for technology partners: if everyone’s doing it, how do you add visible value to the customer’s business and differentiate your own? How do you protect and grow the professional services arm of your business, if technology is viewed as a commodity?

At Red Hat, we believe that, far from being a threat, the growing commoditisation of IT creates market conditions that present an opportunity for our channel partners, such as resellers and network and systems integrators – and we’re helping them to address it.

Fresh thinking on virtualisation

The way in which virtualisation has effectively consolidated and centralised IT provision and management has made the concept of IT as a service a familiar one to users, who have come to take on-tap access to corporate applications and data for granted. For this reason, virtualisation can be viewed as both a precursor to cloud computing and an interim step towards it.

As their customers look to their partners for guidance – even leadership – on moving towards a cloud computing model, Red Hat channel partners are successfully helping to create virtualised infrastructures as the vital stepping-stone to cloud deployments.

Moreover, in the ‘second wave’ of virtualisation, our channel partners can offer their customer base the first open source alternative to proprietary solutions. This reduces the cost of building and running these virtualised environments, whilst improving on both scalability and performance.

With Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, overheads are reduced because the world’s most scalable and secure operating system – Linux – acts as a virtualisation substrate. Plus, there are no licensing costs and the ongoing expense of upgrades and updates is covered by a simple annual subscription. Add into the mix a military grade security framework, developed in conjunction with the US National Security Agency, and enterprise-class support, and this makes Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization worth exploring with customers keen to maximise today’s often restricted IT budgets.

Incidentally, at Red Hat, we recognise and respect the fact that a proportion of our partners will have a dual strategy, whereby they offer Red Hat open source solutions, in this case for virtualisation, alongside proprietary software.

Fuelling innovation

Open source also provides a flexible foundation for creating compelling go-to-market offerings. Red Hat opens up its APIs so that partners can create the most appropriate solution to their customers’ needs. This is in contrast to the traditional closed development cycles and forced implementation paths of proprietary vendors.

One example of the way in which we fuel innovation and collaboration is the Red Hat Marketplace (http://marketplace.redhat.com/rhev), a central hub where partners can showcase information on their products, collaborate with the Red Hat partner community, and offer trial evaluations of products and applications certified for use with Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization.

Delivering greater value at greater profit

While the growing adoption of virtualisation might seem a threat to the sale and delivery of value added services, Red Hat partners find that it opens up new opportunities for their professional services teams to become engaged. The experience of Virtustream, a leading cloud solutions provider, is a case in point here.

Growing our partners’ business

We invest in helping partners to build their business. In EMEA, an established three-tiered partnership programme ranges from Red Hat Ready through Advanced Business Partner to Premier Business Partner. All partners benefit from access to marketing collateral, tools and software. For the higher tiers of our partnership programme, additional support includes lead generation, PR and marketing funding, commensurate with partners’ commitment.

It’s a spectrum of success through which partners can move as they develop their open source strategy. There are good margins to be made, too.

Our flexible approach to supporting our partners’ growth strategy is one of the many reasons why our own business has seen consistent annual growth of 25-30% in recent years, even during the economic downturn, and why Red Hat is the first global $1 billion open source company.

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