Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Red Hat and IBM ... Really?

I’m writing this here on my personal blog because it’s not an official statement from Red Hat and I wanted everyone to know that what I’m putting here is my honest opinion and not clouded by the fact I work for Red Hat. I’m trying to be objective here, building on my scientific background.

I’ve had a couple of days to digest the news about Red Hat acquiring IBM. That is the way round, right? 😉 I always like to say that JBoss acquired Red Hat in 2006 too 🙂 Anyway, I’m excited by the opportunity this gives. I know many people at different levels throughout IBM and they are good people and have a great deal of respect for Red Hat in general and specifically, due to the areas where we interact, the middleware/Java teams, products and projects.

Yes, maybe there are other companies who would be “better” but I can think of a lot of others who would be “worse”. I’ve been acquired six times now, including this one, so I know full well what many of my fellow Red Hatters are going through. I know that in this period of uncertainty there will be those  who are worried. That’s only natural. But I’m hoping that over the coming weeks and months we’ll get more details and everyone will be able to see what working as a wholly owned subsidiary of IBM actually means if IBM want to preserve Red Hat.

IBM and Red Hat have a great track record of working together in the middleware space, in areas such as Eclipse MicroProfile, Jakarta EE and Java, then there’s all the other standards work we’ve done over the years. Yes they aren’t Red Hat but then no company every could be. I’ve worked at a number of companies and I think JBoss and Red Hat are the best but when a company spends a third of its market cap to acquire another company that’s almost a merger! It’s in everyone’s interest in IBM to make it succeed and keep the great teams we have built up in Red Hat.  IBM recognises what we all appreciate here: our key assets are the people and not just the code. Therefore, they need to ensure we keep those people happy and together if Red Hat is to continue to succeed. And I think Chris puts it well- IBM is no novice in the open source space.

Recall that only a few years back we had hoped IBM would acquire Sun over Oracle? I have had some contact with friends and colleagues in IBM over the past few days and I can tell you they are excited by the possibility of working together. Collectively we have an opportunity to define the next phase for IBM. And I use the term “we” here because the Red Hat communities have been a key part of our success to date and just as this deal succeeds or fails by bringing the employees along, so too does it need the communities: you can’t be an open source company, big or small, without them. Red Hat works in some of the biggest upstream communities there are and I’m sure IBM understands their value lies with collaboration, trust built on relationships between people first and vendors second, and so many other factors that it’s really easy to spoil them if you aren’t careful. Again, as Chris mentions, they “get this” and I have every reason to believe that myself.

I know some people outside the company have been incredibly down on the deal suggesting that IBM will kill or stifle the Red Hat culture, cause us to become unfocused or take the proverbial foot off the pedal. Sure that’s possible, but it’s unlikely because no company has ever acquired a company quite like Red Hat before. Our culture of openness is incredibly strong (didn’t Darth Vader once say “The Red Hat Culture is strong in this one” or am I thinking of something else?) I’m pretty confident to say that it won’t happen because we won’t let it happen. Remember what I said about the assets? Well many of those assets are pretty verbal when they want to be ...  I’ve been on the receiving end once or twice publicly and privately 😉 Also I think some of those people trying to throw cold water on this are the usual Trolls, maybe disgruntled for other reasons, or wanting to try to pull key Red Hat folks away to other companies in the first few hours of uncertainty; not necessarily objective. But they could be right in the long run if Red Hat and IBM can’t work well together - fortunately I think we stand a much better chance of succeeding than failing, if we all stick together.

I’ll finish off by trying to end some speculation I’ve seen in the media about what “lives and dies” after the acquisition. Here they’re talking about software products, clearly! Look, no one knows for sure but I do know that between the two companies we have some of the most influential open source projects and products out there with huge adoption and developer interest. It’s not as clear cut as some people are trying to make out, especially when you look at the future of cloud-native middleware. I have some thoughts on the subject of course and although I haven’t confirmed, I’m sure IBM people do too. We’ll have some good, collaborative discussions to define the way forward, taking everything I’ve already said about developers, engineers, community and customers into account. It’ll be fun and I’m hoping all interested parties, whether or not employees of either company, will participate.

On a  personal level, I intend to remain committed to Eclipse MicroProfile, Jakarta EE, WildFly, Thorntail, Drools, jBPM, 3scale, Fuse, Camel, A-MQ, ActiveMQ, Active MQ Artemis, OpenJDK, JCP EC and all of the countless projects and products we have today. The teams and the code are definitely something of which we should all be proud.