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Red Hat's new online marketplace expedites IT purchases and deployment of enterprise software across hybrid clouds running its OpenShift container platform.
The Red Hat Marketplace makes available over 50 offerings from various vendors across 12 categories including AI and machine learning, databases, monitoring, networking, security and a range of different developer tools. Among the vendors in the marketplace are MongoDB, CognitiveScale, Couchbase and Storage OS.
All offerings are certified for use with OpenShift and operate on that platform like a cloud service, and contain capabilities such as automated install, upgrade and failover and recovery. All include technical support.
Accompanying the public market is Red Hat Marketplace Select, which is private. This version is intended for corporate IT shops that prefer a more personalized version of the online market, which has a curated selection of preapproved software that scales more efficiently. This allows users and IT developers to complete digital transformation projects faster.
IBM will oversee the operation of both Red Hat Marketplace and Red Hat Marketplace Select.
Marketplace services must fill gaps
One-stop shop online marketplaces are a trend among large and small software companies as well as internal IT developers the past few years, although these sites still represent a small portion of overall sales. Still, some analysts see user interest rising, even among startups.
"Typically, you don't see startup companies talking about marketplaces like this, but in recent conversations with a couple of them I see it gaining traction," said Judith Hurwitz, president and CEO of Hurwitz & Associates.
R 'Ray' WangFounder and CEO, Constellation Research
Hurwitz cautioned that while interest is growing among some IT developers and users, with the pandemic weighing on financial performance, companies are proceeding with caution.
"In the past customers weren't as worried about holding onto cash, but now suddenly that has changed," Hurwitz said. "For now, they are being more conservative with investing in things like this."
Another analyst said the way Red Hat and IBM manage their business partnerships could determine the marketplace's success.
Successful marketplaces follow some key principles with respect to ISV partners, said R "Ray" Wang, founder and CEO of Constellation Research. One is product alignment.
"Are [marketplace partners] solving things that Red Hat and IBM aren't going to do?" Wang said. "IBM and Red Hat have to be very clear about what they're going to do [in product development] over the next three years. So then, a partner can go in and feel like their investment wasn't cheated."
Support and service are other critical factors, he added. "Who handles it? It's not just like you set up an app marketplace and that's it."
The marketplace should also have a sense of shared community and focus, according to Wang.
"If you're going after open hybrid cloud, you want to make sure everyone's marketing to the same banner," Wang said.
These criteria help both partners and customers if they're met successfully, he added.
Beyond making it easy for customers to find and conduct transactions with sellers, software marketplace operators need to apply curation to their contents, said Duncan Jones, an analyst at Forrester who covers topics of interest to sourcing and vendor management professionals.
"The marketplace must take responsibility for validating the sellers, certifying compliance with GDPR, FCPA, UN banned lists and other requirements, so the customer doesn't have to do that themselves, and also so the supplier doesn't have to support every customer's individual validation process," Jones said.
IT buyers also expect a high quality level and curated apps in a specific category, he said.
"Some vendors think they want their marketplace to be like the Apple or Play store, but actually in a business context, buyers don't want to have too much choice, nor do they want the risk that 90% of the apps on the marketplace are useless or even fraudulent," Jones said.
Red Hat must also balance supply with demand.
"Sellers won't support a marketplace unless it brings them enough revenue, but the buyers want enough competition to keep standards up and prices low," he said.
One factor Red Hat and IBM do have in their favor is their hybrid cloud strategy coupled with the fact OpenShift will allow users and business partners to run their applications across multiple environments, according to one analyst.
"One of the things that can differentiate [Red Hat and IBM from competitors] is not just their approach to hybrid cloud, but they can allow users to run everywhere because it's all containerized on Red Hat [OpenShift]," said Daniel Elman, senior analyst with Nucleus Research. "And now they're expanding that capability to their partner network allowing them to reach anyone that's part of the IBM ecosystem."
Responding to user demands for improved compliance and governance of hybrid cloud applications, Red Hat is allowing private version users access to curated software as well as the ability to track usage and spending by departments of all deployed software.
Anthem, Inc. executives said they are using the Red Hat Marketplace to come up with AI-based predictive and preventive models. The company is accomplishing this by putting in place a hybrid cloud platform that supports secured data transfers among multiple parties. The company has been working with CognitiveScale and will begin collaborating with Red Hat to create its first customized marketplace through Red Hat Marketplace Select.