Part 1 of 2.
Just a decade ago, Microsoft was still focused on Windows, Office and server products. Its cloud services were just taking their first few baby steps and Microsoft’s attitude toward open source was, let’s just say, a competitive threat.
A lot has changed since then. Ten years on, Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, has instituted a new vision for the company. The new Microsoft is pragmatically focused around being guided by customers’ own choices for the best technology mix in their business.
This means being the best at empowering developers to build using the tools and platforms they love and, at a corporate level, excelling at linking customers’ choices of different technologies together, rather than trying to push proprietary technologies into the market.
Microsoft is virtually unrecognisable from its decade-old self.
Clearly, the exponential growth opportunity for Microsoft is now in cloud – Azure has almost doubled its revenue each year for the past two years running. Unlike previous Microsoft ecosystems, it is technology agnostic, designed to support a broad array of different workloads, not just those based on Windows platforms.
According to Senior Product Manager, Azure in Australia, Neil Carter, one distinct reason Azure is doing so well is the unique joint venture between Microsoft and Red Hat.
“It’s important to recognise most of Microsoft’s customers are also Red Hat’s customers,” Carter says. “There’s really not this idea of homogenised IT infrastructure supplied by one vendor any more – people have first party and open source tools working side by side. By having a unified experience in the cloud, it just makes sense. Having the partnership with Red Hat means we can have the best options and the agility for customers to flexibly deploy what they want, knowing they have the support of both organisations.”
From open source skunkworks to success story
Microsoft and Red Hat officially launched its partnership in 2015. But Director, Cloud Partnerships for Red Hat Asia-Pacific, Andrew Habgood, says behind the scenes the two software giants were quietly working together far earlier than that.
“As far back as 2009, customers were demanding that we certified each other’s hypervisors and provided support for each other’s operating systems in those models. We hadn’t collaborated a lot outside that. But customers demanded that level of support from both Microsoft and Red Hat, so we did it.
“It wasn’t the easiest or most natural thing for either company at the time, but customers weren’t concerned about the ‘noise’ between first party and open source – they knew what they needed and, as engineers, we simply ignored the politics and worked to meet the need.”
“When we formed the partnership in 2015, it was about formalising what customers were already doing – running Red Hat Enterprise products on Azure Cloud – and then providing great support arrangements around that.”
Turning the tables: running Microsoft on Red Hat atop Azure
“It didn’t take long for things to evolve again,” Habgood recalls. “Customers started asking to run Microsoft products on Red Hat OpenStack, so we made that happen.”
“Now customers are running containerised Microsoft SQL Server on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, using Red Hat OpenShift as their Kubernetes platform – these are phenomenally interesting combinations.
“What we are seeing is customers fully expect to have the flexibility of open source development, with enterprise grade support, spread across a mix of on-premises, public, hybrid and multi-cloud environments.”
Microsoft’s Carter agrees the complete flexibility, underscored by very coherent support arrangements, is what is driving a previously unseen level of innovation on the Azure platform.
“The idea of [Microsoft and Red Hat] coming together to engineer solutions that work better together means customers have absolute assurance whether they are trying to deploy a Microsoft stack or an open source stack. They can do it all in one place with Azure, with full support. That is what unlocks real innovation.”
Keeping it real: what makes the partnership tick
“The really unique thing we’ve done with Microsoft is our fully integrated support capability, including collocated support personnel,” Red Hat’s Habgood says.
“So a customer that contacts Microsoft with a problem with OpenShift running on Azure is fully supported end to end. It’s not just co-ticketing – it’s people from Microsoft and Red Hat working in the same building, working together, with visibility of each other’s workflows and complete end to end resources for problem resolution.”
This level of support is particularly relevant because both companies are much broader technology solution originators than some other cloud infrastructure providers.
“For example, Microsoft’s entire .net development environment has been open sourced. Red Hat has OpenShift and JBoss middleware, and so on. If you call another cloud provider for support, they will work with Red Hat to resolve an operating system type issue, but they won’t attempt support for the broader ecosystem of products.
“When you call into the Microsoft Azure/Red Hat support team, we will work to solve complex issues. It’s the breadth of what we are doing that makes it possible for enterprise customers to consider migrating particularly risky workloads to the cloud, knowing we will get it done.”
To learn more visit: microsoft.com.au/redhatonazure