“India is a perfect example of the application of open hybrid cloud”

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NEW DELHI : Matt Hicks is president and CEO of American open source enterprise solutions company Red Hat Inc., which was acquired by International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) in July 2019 for $34 billion, but operates as an independent unit. Hicks, who took over from Paul Cormier (now president of Red Hat) in July, is an IBM veteran and has been at the forefront of cloud computing for more than a decade. In a video interview from the US, he spoke about his relationship with IBM Chairman and CEO Arvind Krishna and Cormier, even as he shared Red Hat’s overall roadmap, plans for the India and Technology Trends. Edited excerpts:

You’ve seen the company grow from a simple enterprise Linux to a multi-billion dollar open source enterprise product business. After taking Cormier’s place, do you envisage a change of strategy?

The short answer is no’. I am fortunate to have worked within 20 feet of Paul for the past 10 years. So I had the opportunity to participate in the team we built, the strategy we developed, and the bets and positions we took around the open hybrid cloud. In my last role, I led all of our product and technology and business unit teams. So I know the team and the strategy. And we will evolve. If we look at the rapidly changing cloud services market, our business models there will change to ensure that as customers have a foothold on-premises (on-premises) and in the private cloud, we serve them well. As hybrid expands to the (computing) edge, it will also change our approach to this market. But our fundamental strategy around the open hybrid cloud does not change. So, it’s a nice place to be here, where I don’t feel like I have to make changes, but focus more on execution.

Tell us a bit about Red Hat’s focus on India and your plans for expansion in the country.

When we see growth and opportunity in India, it mimics what we see in many parts of the world: software-defined innovation that will enable businesses to compete. This could be in traditional markets where they leverage their data centers; or it could be leveraging public cloud technologies. In some industries, this software innovation is moving to the devices themselves, which we call edge. India is a perfect example of the application of open hybrid cloud because we can address all of these use cases, from edge deployments in 5G and adjacent businesses that will be built around that, to connectivity to public clouds .

Correia (Marshall Correia is Vice President and General Manager, India, South Asia at Red Hat): We have been operating in the country for several decades and our interest in India is twofold. One is marketing in India, working with Indian government, Indian companies, private sector as well as public sector companies. We have a global delivery presence in cities like Pune and Bangalore. Whether you look at front office, back office or mid office, we are deeply integrated into it (BSE, National Stock Exchange (NSE), Aadhaar, GST Network (GSTN), Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), SBI L’ insurance and most basic banking services in India use open source technologies from Red Hat). For example, we work with Infosys on GSTN. So I would say there is a bit of Red Hat everywhere (in India) but with some big companies we have a very deep relationship.

Do you think Red Hat meets IBM’s expectations? How often do you interact with Arvind Krishna and what do you discuss?

About five years ago, Arvind and I were on stage together, announcing our newfound friendship around IBM middleware on OpenShift. I talk to him every few days. Much of that credit goes to Paul. We have found the balance with IBM. Arvind would describe it as Red Hat being “independent” (since) we have to partner with other cloud providers, other consulting providers, (and) other technology providers (including Verizon, Accenture, Deloitte, Tata Consultancy Services and IBM Consulting). But IBM has a lot of opinions on Red Hat – they built their middleware on Red Hat, and we’re their primary choice for the hybrid. Red Hat gives them (IBM) a technology base to which they can apply their global reach. IBM has the ability to bring Red Hat open source technology to every corner of the planet.

How do open source architectures help data scientists and CXOs with the much-needed edge by embracing AI-ML (artificial intelligence and machine learning)?

AI is a really big space, and we’ve always kind of worked on how to build code and get it into production faster. But now, training models capable of answering the questions accurately are working in parallel. We’re passionate about bringing all of this flow of models into production, right alongside the apps you’re already building today. We call this the ML Operations (Machine Learning Operations, which is jargon for a set of best practices that businesses should run AI successfully) space.

This means that we are not trying to be the best at natural language processing (NLP) or building basic AI models on it or convolutional neural networks (CNN). We want to play in our sweet spot, which is how we arm data science teams to be able to integrate their models from development to production and time into these applications. This is the work we did on OpenShift data science (managed cloud service for data scientists and developers) with him.

Another element that changes and that excites us is the material. As an example, cars today and in the future are moving towards running a single computer. What we do really well is put Linux on computers and the computer in your car, and the future will look a lot like the computer in your data center today. And when we’re able to combine that platform, with bringing those AI models into that environment with the speed that you do with code with application integration, that opens up a lot of great opportunities for customers to integrate this data science model into devices, or as close to customers as possible.

This convergence is important, and it is not tied to the periphery. Companies have realized that the closer they can get the interaction to the user, the better the experience.

And that could be in banking or pushing self-service to users’ phones.

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