For Red Hat, the open-source and Linux company, working with the channel has been a huge part of the vendor's success since it began in 1993.
Today, that relationship is even stronger as Red Hat has continued to expand its product line and enterprise expertise into the cloud, storage, containers and much more, Ranga Rangachari, the vice president and general manager of the company's storage and big data unit, told Channel Futures at the recent OpenStack Summit.
"A year ago, open source was focused on the compute layer in IT," said Rangachari. "Storage was a separate set of rules to manage. But what we have done is hyperconverged compute and storage so customers can run them together" more easily and seamlessly, he said.
Red Hat last year announced its hyperconvergence and virtualization strategies for enterprises, but more change has arrived in 2018 as well, with the company unveiling its latest hyperconvergence and cloud strategies and services for the enterprise.
"A significant portion of enterprise customers are running mission-critical workloads on open-source technologies, not just at the operating system level, but across the stack, from storage up through cloud infrastructure and application-development platforms," said Rangachari. "The channel recognizes that demand and sees the rapidly growing adoption of not just open-source technologies, but an open-source mindset that helps their customers innovate faster by getting involved in the communities and having a say in product road maps rather than having to wait for proprietary vendors to add functionality to their products."
More than 65 percent of Red Hat's business is conducted through channel partners, resellers and systems integrators, said Rangachari. "They are a critical part of our ecosystem."
As those relationships have continued and strengthened, Red Hat has introduced more platforms and products that partners can offer large and small. That includes Red Hat Ceph Storage, a scalable storage product for cloud, data analytics, backup and more, as well as Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform and Red Hat OpenStack Platform.
For channel partners and their customers, these products have expanded opportunities, sales and solved business problems, he said. The appeal of Red Hat Ceph Storage to channel partners is one example of this trend.
"The channel sees the opportunity with software-defined storage," said Rangachari. "Ceph and Red Hat Storage enable the channel to work with a variety of server and component vendors, giving them greater bargaining power and margins."
For customers, that means being able to use a heterogeneous mix of hardware while introducing new innovations into their storage systems much faster than they could with proprietary vendors, he added. Today, this is all API-driven, not hardware-centric, said Rangachari.
"What used to take weeks to configure and deploy now can take 30 minutes to set up."
Throughout its history, Red Hat has been taking each new technology it introduces to customers and developing them to become enterprise-ready, he said.
"That's where we spend a tremendous amount of time and energy on these goals," he noted.
Since Red Hat began almost 25 years ago, the conversation about open source and its use in the enterprise has changed from simply reducing costs to how it can provide business and operational value, said Rangachari.
At the beginning, "businesses and public-sector agencies introduced open source technologies for cost efficiencies but needed confidence that open-source technologies were secure, enterprise-grade, and scalable," he said.
"[Today] open source is seen as being strategic to the business goals of the enterprise, and Red Hat has evolved from an open-source vendor into a vendor that offers enterprise software based on an open-source model," he said.
For Red Hat, growing its channel business has helped the company scale and leverage the large network of channel partners it has built over the years to provide deeper services to customers, according to Rangachari.
"[Inside the Red Hat Storage division] we can achieve the next degree of scale as a business unit by making our products channel-friendly and our sales cycle highly repeatable," he said. "We have had success with not only the niche hardware and component vendors, but also the large channel partners who, in some cases, have storage businesses of their own. That says a lot about the vision of Red Hat Storage and the success we've enjoyed as a business."