Red Hat launches London 'innovation lab' to help customers get to grips with containers and devops

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The innovation lab is Red Hat's first in EMEA

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Red Hat has launched an innovation lab in London to support customers as they modernise IT infrastructure to enable faster creation of software apps.

So-called 'cloud-native' technologies such as containers and platform as a service tools have promise to speed up software development by automating away much of the laborious work of managing infrastructure. However moving away from legacy systems and practices can be tricky, both from a technical and organisational perspective, and vendors working in this space are keen to provide consulting services to smooth the transition for customers.

With this in mind, Red Hat announced last year that it would launch its Open Innovation Labs globally, with the London office the first of its kind in EMEA. Red Hat already has innovation hubs set up in Mountain View and Boston in the US. 

Work tends to centre around building proof of concept projects using products such as OpenShift and Red Hat OpenStack, with Red Hat staff working alongside customer IT teams as part of 'residencies' that last up to three months.

At the launch of its lab in London last week, Red Hat VP for Global Services, John Allessio, said that CIOs on the vendor's strategic advisory board want more support to adapt to the pace of change facing their organisations, both internally and externally.

"What they were telling us is that Red Hat is coming out with a lot of technology, and they have a lot of challenges in being able to consume that technology," he said.

"Secondly, their industry is going through a lot of change and they need to be able to more quickly react to that."

Allessio added that CIOs want guidance as large enterprises continue to adopt open source tools more widely. "So yes it is technical skills, but it is process skills, how to work in an open source community, it is how to leverage the software to drive business change. So they really want to work with us on this type of engagement to help jump-start their business."

The focus of the labs mirrors the evolution of Red Hat's product strategy in recent years. The vendor has moved into new areas – under its Emerging Technologies division – such as its OpenStack infrastructure as a service distribution and Kubernetes-based OpenShift PaaS. Fourth quarter results showed that OpenStack was involved in three of its four largest deals worth over $100m (£76m), while OpenShift use is increasing and providing more lucrative sales than other products such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Also speaking at the London launch, Mike Walker, Red Hat global director of Open Innovations Labs, said that he has seen the company shift from a heavy product focus to a more services-led approach of late.

"Now I feel we are consulting on transformational change for the business, and that fundamentally changes how we interact with our customers and our partners and what we do in a really exciting ways," he said. "So the lab in a lot of ways is the essence of all of that." 

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