Red Hat moves closer to Linux/other balance

Mark Enzweiler, senior vice president of global channel sales and alliances at Red Hat

Mark Enzweiler, senior vice president of global channel sales and alliances at Red Hat

At last year’s Red Hat North American Partner Conference, company sales chief Arun Oberoi set a goal of the company reaching a 50/50 balance between its Linux and non-Linux businesses. A year into the effort, the open-source pioneer says it’s making strong progress.

Mark Enzweiler, senior vice president of global channels and alliances at Red Hat called Oberoi’s declaration “a stake in the ground” and “an aspirational goal,” and one that the company and its partners are moving on.

“It’s a pretty significant move to the non-RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) business,” Enzweiler said. “We’re helping to build that onramp so more partners can play.”

RHEL is obviously the product on which Red Hat has built itself, but over the last few years, through acquisitions and internal development, the company has diversified its portfolio, which has also long included middleware offerings from the JBoss line. It now includes a pair of storage technologies (Ceph and Gluster), as well as OpenStack and OpenShift, and management software with Ansible.

Enzweiler credited partners with picking up the rallying cry at last year’s partner conference, and building their abilities and businesses around non-RHEL Red Hat products. While the company isn’t sharing details about the exact breakout of its business between product types, mostly owing to a just-now completed quarter, Enzweiler said non-RHEL parts of the business have been growing at twice the rate of RHEL. Among that group, emerging technologies are growing three times RHEL, and one (which Enzweiler declined to identify) at seven times the growth of RHEL.

“We’re not there yet, the goal is still a couple of years away, but the channel is responding,” Enzweiler said. “We threw the challenge down that we don’t make it to 50/50 without our partners.”

Luc Villeneuve, country manager, Red Hat Canada

Luc Villeneuve, country manager, Red Hat Canada

Closer to home, Red Hat Canada country leader Luc Villeneuve said the Canadian business is “a few points behind the corporate breakdown” in terms of the RHEL/non-RHEL split, but is “pretty much there” and is growing very similarly to the overall organization.

For a company that’s looking to expand the markets in which it has major presence, Red Hat is very blunt about its plans to grow its partner ranks. It has none, Enzweiler said with surprising openness.

“We’re still adhering to a less is more strategy,” he said. “We’re not interested in expanding our partner base. We’d really rather make the partners we already have richer.”

So the company is investing in training and enablement for existing partners, as well as incentives to help encourage partners to take up new adjacent technologies to their traditional base. The company has more people doing data science around customers and prospects than ever before, Enzweiler said, and is providing access to its partners, part of a move beyond training into deeper, and more specific enablement on top of training. It’s an ongoing and ever-evolving process that Enzweiler describes.

“”It’s segmenting, tailoring messages, it’s about taking them and transferring our knowledge quickly,” he said. “It doesn’t do any good to do this over six months. It’s a quick, continuous cycle of build, deliver, learn, transfer.”

Support these ends, at the conference, the company introduced the Application Platform Partner Initiative, a new program designed to create incentives for larger Red Hat partners to expand their business in emerging areas including cloud, containers, mobility, and cloud-native application development.

According to the company, it’s been “piloted with a select group of solution-oriented consulting partners in North America,” although for the time being, Red Hat Canada does not plan to role the program out here. Villeneuve said that decision was not because of the scale of the channel or opportunity. More because of the speed.

“We’re taking a back seat for a few quarters [when it comes to the APP program] because we believe our business in Canada is a bit small for the partners to invest in out of the gates,” Villeneuve said.

Canadian partners are being brought up to speed on what the program entails and “the investments involved,” and Villeneuve said the company needs to evaluate the nature of service capabilities partners can bring to bear, and the amount of services delivery capacity in those partners.