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Jochen Glaser // © Red Hat
Jochen Glaser // © Red Hat
Blog Open Source and Cloud

Red Hat: Platform For E2E Processes And Digital Excellence

For many years, Linux was the only open source component in the SAP community. Now Red Hat is launching a complete open source platform. Peter M. Faerbinger spoke to Jochen Glaser about this unique solution.

Open source and Red Hat have arrived in the business world. Sixty-six percent of major companies have chosen to use open source software, while only 4 percent of them are skeptical of or will not deploy the software. That means roughly 90 percent of the large companies see the advantages that come with using open source software.

The freely available software is already in use at a vast majority of large firms in Germany, and those that are not already using it could do so in the future. These insights were gained as part of a survey commissioned by the German digital association Bitkom of more than 800 companies with over 100 employees in Germany.

“There is a number of new challenges for current SAP customers in view of two key IT-related initiatives currently shaping the market; those being SAP modernization, and the productive implementation of digital innovations and services,” states Jochen Glaser, Red Hat, outlining why open source and Red Hat are so successful in the SAP community. “The two initiatives are running concurrently, which are driving demand for new, shared architectures and platforms to replace the silos that previously existed.”

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Red Hat for SAP

Red Hat is providing end-to-end support during the development of the new SAP architecture. Along with that, it has been assisting existing customers for years in their efforts to break down silos. “This opens up a number of synergies as well,” says Glaser, who has learned this firsthand from past experiences in numerous successful projects. “Our portfolio includes roughly 50 solutions focused on IT optimization, agile integration, hybrid cloud infrastructure, cloud-native app development, and automation. All of these are also key components for future SAP environments. The aim now is to give SAP users the freedom to choose which hybrid cloud architecture they want to use.”

According to a Bitkom survey, 75 percent of companies are open to and interested in open source software. Conversely, only 4 percent are fundamentally skeptical of or will not use open source software, while 20 percent of the companies are still undecided. Presently, only 25 percent of firms with 100 or more employees do not use open source, whereas 66 percent actively deploy such software.

“It’s likely that even more companies use open source solutions without even knowing it, be it as an operating system for smartphones or as the basic software for web servers,” says Bitkom president Achim Berg. “Open source is particularly important when it comes to new technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain, where the pace of development is very high.”

The SAP community is currently facing a unique challenge: Starting in 2025, all SAP applications will run on the Hana database – and Hana needs Linux to run. “Red Hat has been providing official support for Linux platforms for Hana for many years and for many versions,” explains Jochen Glaser. “In the SAP environment, a vast ecosystem of Red Hat partners, such as OEMs, GSIs, and ISVs, therefore uses Red Hat Enterprise Linux globally as a platform for private, on-premise, and public cloud offerings.”

For example, Red Hat also offers an array of smart management tools and automated Hana deployments in any hybrid environment based on Red Hat Ansible.

Close collaboration with SAP

In its own words, Red Hat has positioned itself as follows: Red Hat provides the right answers and solutions to the challenges SAP users face. These are based on a global ecosystem, an extensive range of products and services, and the business expertise it makes available to its customers. Red Hat’s line of products and services is also the result of years of close collaboration between the provider of open source platforms and the producer of business software.

Dating back to 1999, SAP applications could be run on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The partnership gradually expanded in scope. This began with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4, which was already SAP-certified, moving on from there to Red Hat JBoss in combination with a Hana porting contract, integration into SAP NetWeaver, and, lastly, Red Hat Enterprise Linux for SAP solutions and Hana.

Since 2017, the number of Red Hat products and services for the SAP ecosystem has grown extensively. A recent example of this is Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 for SAP Solutions.

What does Red Hat have planned for 2020 and beyond?

“In short, we will concentrate on providing users with the freedom to choose what platform they want to use for current and future SAP workloads and on ensuring there is no vendor lock-in when it comes to cloud providers. By doing so, the SAP community will be able to retain full control,” says Glaser, proud of his company’s end-to-end package. “Red Hat stands fully behind SAP’s technology strategy ‘The Intelligent Enterprise.’ Practically speaking, the added value is achieved by way of a uniform core: There is no difference – and this I want to stress – between Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) for Hana and the RHEL standard. All hardware, software, and security certifications apply without restriction. All add-ons, smart management products, and automation solutions from Red Hat’s portfolio are identical and result in a number of synergies in the form of a uniform open hybrid cloud infrastructure platform.”

According to Bitkom, 90 percent of companies with 100 or more employees believe there are advantages to using open source software. When asked to describe the number one advantage of open source, 17 percent responded with lower costs thanks to no licensing fees.

This was followed, with a wide margin, by the high level of security achieved through fast updates and independence from individual software providers (9 percent each), as well as the wide selection of open source components, access to source code, and the easy customization of the software (7 percent each). In addition, open standards (6 percent), compatibility with other deployed tools, and an active community for sharing knowledge and information (5 percent each) are seen as other key advantages of open source software.

“For some time now, companies have been using open source not just because it is free, but also because it can offer many other advantages, ranging from improved security to the ease at which you can customize the software,” says Bitkom president Berg, concurring with Glaser on this highly positive trend. Glaser: “Red Hat now supports far more than just Linux for SAP. We essentially offer a fully integrated open hybrid cloud infrastructure platform that matches the needs of the SAP community.”

Red Hat finding its footing in the SAP community

Red Hat appears to be one of the most successful open source company in the world. Why has Red Hat been less visible in the SAP community in recent years, then? “This is something I’m only asked in German-speaking countries,” says Jochen Glaser, surprised by the question. “I don’t think Red Hat has neglected the SAP community – neither in Germany nor anywhere else. We’ve always been highly committed to the SAP community in all regions. We have been supplying certified Linux platforms for SAP environments since 1999. Red Hat is one of the world’s leading open source provider and often the first choice outside the German-speaking community when it comes to SAP Linux platforms.”

Red Hat is considered to be the leading open source provider by the SAP community across all regions, and it is also recognized for its commitment to SAP. With that said, Glaser admits that the German-speaking market is somewhat of an exception. “We nevertheless remain as committed as ever to SAP and the SAP community in Germany,” he stresses.

There are still reservations when it comes to using open source software highlighted in the Bitkom survey: 79 percent of large companies believe there are also disadvantages associated with open source. Twelve percent of respondents cite a lack of skilled staff at their company who are needed, for example, to customize and upgrade the software to meet their specific requirements as the main disadvantage.

This is followed by a lack of acceptance within the company (7 percent); a lack of clarity regarding the warranty; a lack of training options; a lack of solutions for the company’s specific application; the high cost of migrating from the legacy software to open source; and too many choices in terms of open source solutions that leads to confusion (7 percent each). Finally, 5 percent complain about the high training costs.

Especially in the SAP community, these concerns only apply to a limited extent, says Glaser. “The Red Hat package offers many advantages, such as extended long-term support options, proactive monitoring, and resolution according to SAP specifications such as those laid out in SAP Notes. And, needless to say, all versions offer high availability. Red Hat Ansible, as part of the operating system, allows for automated Hana deployment in just a few minutes fully in line with the specifications set out in SAP Notes. In addition, a certified API management link to Hana makes new services as well as the modernization and migration of in-house developments in S/4 projects possible.”

Red Hat Linux for Hana?

The Hana community is faced with a paradox: While Power 9 from IBM offers the best on-premise server for Hana, and Suse supplies the accompanying Linux operating system, Red Hat would actually be the more logical choice because it is part of IBM. The question now is how to proceed.

“Red Hat and IBM share a common hybrid cloud strategy. The necessary technology components are based on Red Hat’s open hybrid cloud infrastructure,” explains Glaser. “Following the recent announcement that all IBM Cloud Paks will be migrated to Red Hat OpenShift and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, IBM also decided to use Red Hat Enterprise Linux as its platform for Hana on IBM Power. We are expecting the official SAP certifications for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 on IBM Power 9 for Hana to be issued shortly.”

SAP and Red Hat work in close cooperation, and this partnership is deeply established. The team responsible for the global alliance is located in Walldorf, where SAP’s headquarters are. In addition, the partnership takes place on many levels. Among other things, Red Hat provides SAP support training in-house as well as global training and partner enablement resources for the expansive Red Hat SAP ecosystem.

“As well as being involved with a number of strategic SAP partners, integrators, and ISVs, we are also at the SAP Partner Port in Walldorf and the SAP Linux Lab. Red Hat is furthermore a member of the SAP Benchmark Council. As you can see, our commitment to SAP is extremely wide-reaching and multi-faceted,” says Glaser, proudly describing the current situation.

Jon Dorrington, VP of SAP global business development and global ecosystem, says, “Red Hat is a strategic and valuable open source partner of SAP. Red Hat’s technology leadership in Linux, container orchestration, and API management will help promote new opportunities to innovate between us and our shared customers.” He goes on to say, “Recently, we finalized a new strategic alliance with Red Hat. It expands the platform services and enhances the support portfolio around the flagship operating system RHEL for SAP solutions.”

What’s planned for the future?

Former SAP CEO Bill McDermott enjoyed using the term “Cloud First.” What cloud products does Red Hat offer for existing SAP customers? “Red Hat’s global open hybrid cloud strategy based on open source aligns perfectly with SAP’s focus, representing the ecosystem of all partners, including IBM,” says Jochen Glaser.

The goal is to create a streamlined application development process embedded in the platform, achieve strategic flexibility in the selection of the underlying resources, and develop a DevOps capability for SAP workloads and much more.

Glaser expounds, “The majority of SAP users will want to use a combination of on-premise, private cloud, and public cloud services for both SAP and non-SAP workloads that are closely integrated. All three layers, including on premise, can be uniformly visualized using Red Hat OpenShift as a proven enterprise Kubernetes platform. No separate development is necessary for on premise or even custom public cloud platforms – and SAP’s ecosystem benefits from this, too. Over 200 certified third-party solutions are already available in Red Hat’s container catalog.”

This is the first part of a series! To read the next part, click here.

Source:
E-3 Magazine October 2019 (German)

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