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July 27, 2015

Q&A: Why EMM’s future lies in software/hardware partnerships

Does it take two to tango?

By Alexander Sword

In partnerships such as Apple and IBM’s MobileFirst, industry players on both the hardware and software side are realising that collaboration is the best way to produce a more comprehensive solution.

CBR spoke to Red Hat’s Steve O’Keefe, product line director for Red Hat Mobile, to discuss how Red Hat is partnering with Samsung to meet this need. The partnership, announced in June, will produce business applications as well as a developer ecosystem.


CBR: Why are Samsung and Red Hat collaborating on an enterprise mobility solution?

The reason that Samsung and Red Hat came together is that enterprise mobility is a complex system and it’s challenging enterprises to extend their core, main systems out to mobile devices.

They have to build a bridge from those systems out to the mobile device and of course enterprise IT and the security office have those concerns that when they get out there, both that bridge and the devices are secure.

Red Hat has a lot of expertise running those core systems all the way back in the data centre, on Linux, our JBoss middleware platform, from our cloud technology, our virtualisation, so we have deep expertise in running those systems.

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Now that we have the mobile application platform, we have the technology and experience to extend those systems out to mobile devices, to present those systems in a mobile fashion; simple, easy-to-use APIs that mobile developers of all stripes can use to build true enterprise mobile apps that run on devices.


CBR: What does Samsung bring to the partnership?

We’re a software company, and Samsung being a hardware company and a provider of devices and the OS on the devices completes that for many of our customers.

With this alliance they can get the best of breed support on the enterprise systems, the software bridge out to the mobile devices and the mobile devices themselves: support on the operating system, the mobile apps and the physical devices.

So we really feel like together we offer enterprises a true enterprise mobility solution, where I have the software, the devices, the entirety of enterprise mobility covered in one alliance.


CBR: Are partnerships between hardware and software companies set to become a trend?

Certainly, there’s the IBM-Apple partnership and now the Red Hat-Samsung alliance. It’s a recognition of the importance of the connective tissue between the enterprise system that companies have spent the last 25 years building and the importance of these mobile devices, which is where the computing is happening and where the engagement is happening.

Whether it’s the customer engagement, the employee engagement or the partner engagement, a large proportion of it is moving to these devices that we carry in our pockets and we use all the time.


CBR: Do hardware vendors lack something that software vendors can provide?

I think it’s all about what you want to sell to your customers. Samsung and Red Hat both wanted to sell enterprise mobility, and together recognised that enterprise mobility is inclusive of both the hardware and the software. I think in many cases we’re seeing that in the industry.

On the enterprise side you’re actually seeing where there’s a separation of hardware and software, with infrastructure as a service and platform-as-a-service. More and more enterprises are caring less and less about some elements of the stack.

However, with enterprise mobility, because there are these niche characteristics of the devices – they run on public networks and they are out there in the wild, out of corporate infosec reach – I think companies are taking an interest in both the hardware and the software.

That’s what we recognise and based on conversations we have with our customers we feel good that our customers are seeing the same challenge and are looking for companies to form together to be able to support both the hardware and the software in the mobile space.


CBR: With Apple holding a disproportionate share of the enterprise mobility market, how is Samsung looking to compete?

From the perspective of the Samsung-Red Hat alliance, I think the way that the way Samsung is looking to compete in enterprise mobility is to go beyond the device and show value above and beyond the device: how you procure those devices, how you set them up, how you provision them out to your employees fully configured with all of the apps that you need.

I think another key is that they’re recognising that they need an enterprise mobility solution, so they are embracing a software vendor like Red Hat and saying that this is really a platform.

The platform goes beyond the device and the operating system there, but also to the mobile platform that you run inside your company and being able to extend functionality to all those devices.

The other part of it that is distinguishing from their perspective is that if you want to serve enterprise mobility today, you need a cross-OS type of solution.


CBR: How is the alliance meeting this need?

Within this alliance, Samsung will support iOS devices and iOS development, they will support BlackBerry, they will support Windows and so will we. We’re really addressing the heterogeneous nature of enterprise mobility today.

While iOS may have a strong foothold in some industries, a lot of customers are dealing with a BYOD environment where their customers and their employees are bringing the devices that they want. Samsung’s recognition of that fact is saying that that’s how they are going to compete in enterprise mobility.


CBR: Red Hat is a leading open source provider. What role does open source have to play in enterprise mobility?

I think the role OS has to play in EM is the same as the role of OS in enterprise software generally, which is that customers are able to see the development and the innovation on the platforms that they consider critical to their enterprise. They can see it happening in the open and they can participate in it.

Red Hat, in all of our products and in all of our community projects that are the upstream version of the products, has a lot of participation from our customer base. They see the code, they can inspect the code, they can commit a patch and they can work in the community to advance the agenda of what features they want.

Compare and contrast that to a closed system where you make requests for feature enhancements but you may not see what’s getting done.

You may not be able to plan on that, you have to rely on published reports; those published reports are probably never as specific or as detailed as you’d want. In open source you can inspect that work upstream.


CBR: What other advantages does it offer?

I also think that open source allows the teams to rapidly coalesce on the right innovations that are meeting customers’ needs. In many open source projects there are varied ways of doing something.

The customers then say "that’s the way", and everybody rapidly coalesces to that rather than having to wait until that reaches product and then say that they’re on another product cycle. You can actually see it happening in real-time.

OS allows for more rapid adoption standards, more rapid innovation and coalescence around innovation. It’s more people involved, so from a business perspective it keeps the cost of development down because everybody is contributing and you have a better product.

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