Open Source Giant Red Hat Launches First Blockchain Initiative

Pete Rizzo
Apr 5, 2016 at 14:00 UTC
Updated Apr 6, 2016 at 15:25 UTC
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Red Hat building and logo

Red Hat officially announced the OpenShift Blockchain Initiative today, a new development effort aimed at assisting financial firms as they embark on proofs-of-concept and other trials related to the emerging technology.

Under the OpenShift Blockchain Initiative, Red Hat customers can build hosted blockchain applications using tools provided by independent solutions vendors (ISVs) focused on the industry, while taking advantage of the company’s managed support services.

In interview, Julio Tapia, director of the Red Hat OpenShift partnership ecosystem, sought to position the announcement as both the first way that the company is seeking to leverage its open-source experience in the blockchain market, and as a follow-on to the news that the company had joined the Hyperledger blockchain project in February.

Tapia told CoinDesk:

“We want to position ourselves with not only customers and partners, but leverage solutions developed in the entire ecosystem, taking all the innovation going on in the industry, maturing it for an enterprise market and making sure all the solutions can be launched and supported.”

Through the new initiative, he said, clients will have access to the OpenShift Dedicated product alongside tools and training workshops, enablement materials and offerings from third-party solutions providers.

Tapia positioned the Red Hat offering as competitive in today’s market, given that major financial services firms have voiced an interest in launching blockchain applications in the cloud.

“A lot of folks in the market are looking to deploy on the big cloud providers, Amazon, Google, Microsoft. There are many companies offering cloud support,” Tapia explained.

Tapia clarified that OpenShift Dedicated is available on Amazon and that Google and Microsoft Azure support is forthcoming. Should an enterprise business want to pursue the use of these cloud platforms, Tapia said, Red Hat will help manage it on behalf of clients.

Red Hat’s formal entrance into the ecosystem comes at a time when a number of startups are seeking to provide similar enterprise-oriented services. For example, former Red Hat employee Jeff Garzik recently launched a startup called Bloq, which he dubbed the “Red Hat for blockchain” due to its use of a managed software services approach to the market.

The news further follows word that Red Hat, which is perhaps best known for its services centered on the open-source Linux operating system, is now earning more than $2bn in annual revenue, a feat it claimed in mid-March.

Increased attention

Tapia indicated that Red Hat is expanding OpenShift to feature blockchain capabilities due, in part, to the growing attention the technology has received.

“[There are] lots of companies looking to deploy new solutions that will meet the needs of this space. There’s a lot of things we’re hearing about. We want to make sure we’re at the forefront of that effort,” Tapia continued.

As for its predictions regarding the market, Tapia was perhaps short in his remarks, noting that he believes the industry is “still evolving”.

“We’re starting to see interesting [use cases] under development, everything from title and registration to patent management,” he stated.

He went on to suggest that the company is preparing for more growth in this area, adding:

“This is how big markets start and we want to invest appropriately to be the default platform.”

No restrictions

The announcement follows the February news that Red Hat had added Ethereum development platform BlockApps, a product of Ethereum decentralized application studio ConsenSys, to its OpenShift product.

Tapia said that the inclusion of BlockApps in the announcement was due to the fact that ConsenSys, described as its seed investor and parent company, was one of the first teams to approach Red Hat about a potential collaboration. The firm is not the only company to be accepted into the program, Tapia said.

As for which other blockchain companies have so far signed on to the offering, however, Tapia did not provide additional details.

“It’s a little early, a lot of the partners are still creating product,” he said.

As for the level of scrutiny that will be applied to applications, Tapia declined to provide any specific criteria that participants will need to meet. As with Microsoft and its approach to expanding its Azure platform, Tapia said Red Hat is striving to be “open” and “all-inclusive”, noting that the firm would not seek to make it “difficult” to join.

“We don’t have any specific hard requirements,” he said, adding:

“At this stage, it’s still too early.”

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