Red Hat users: Too soon to draw conclusions on IBM deal

Some Red Hat users are taking news of the $34 billion sale to IBM in stride, and say it's important to wait and see.

BOSTON -- IBM's plan to purchase Red Hat shook up the enterprise tech landscape, but some Red Hat users have taken the pending $34 billion deal in stride.

IBM executives have offered plenty of assurances that Red Hat will operate as an independent unit after the landmark acquisition closes. That's a common refrain in any merger, but it doesn't always prove true after the deal is done. Users at a Red Hat DevOps and security workshop here this week offered mixed reactions to the deal and how it could affect them.

Mike Mitrowski, an information security manager at a Massachusetts-based systems integrator, took a measured view, and hearkened back to a previous job he held in the storage industry.

"Coming from an organization where M&A was a big part of our business, how [Red Hat] aligns with the [IBM] product suite remains to be seen," Mitrowski said. "You'd see what products died out and which ones got integrated in the product suite and corporate strategy. I always have a wait-and-see approach with any M&A."

IBM wants to become the industry's leader in hybrid and multi-cloud management. To get there, it plans to use Red Hat's phalanx of open source software, particularly its widely used Linux distribution and key role in the development of the Kubernetes container orchestration platform.

Everything is moving out of the physical space out into container platforms. I see why they would merge.
Gilberto Rosariolead software engineer, UnitedHealth Group

Another Red Hat user at the event gave a thumbs-up to IBM's move, and pointed to alignment between the two companies' portfolios. "Everything is moving out of the physical space out into container platforms. I see why they would merge," said Gilberto Rosario, a lead software engineer at UnitedHealth Group, a large healthcare provider headquartered in Minnetonka, Minn., which uses OpenShift and JBoss.

IBM has backed away from its attempts to compete in the public cloud market with the likes of Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. The company's goal now is to couple its army of consultants with Red Hat's technology and drive cloud revenue through services engagements.

An application architect colleague of Mitrowski's, who also attended the Red Hat event but declined to provide his name, said IBM has made a good decision to shore up its prospects in today's cloud market, but it must beware of brain drain in Red Hat's employee base.

"For Red Hat, the concern would be the culture," he said. "It's whether they can keep the people and really operate it as an autonomous unit."

History shows there is reason to be at least a little concerned if you're a Red Hat employee. IBM regularly engages in layoffs, under the euphemism "workforce rebalancing." One would imagine, however, that IBM will make every effort to keep Red Hat's most valuable engineers, with any cuts coming in redundant areas.

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