“The overall mission of Red Hat’s learning services worldwide is to enable our customers to get the maximum return on their investment in both people and technology, specifically the Red Hat operating system and other systems we serve our customers with,” Childers explained. To help customers get the best returns on their Red Hat investments, Red Hat offers learning solutions for two audiences. About 88 percent to 90 percent of the training customers are made up of network and systems administrators who are deploying and managing Linux servers and workstations in large organizations, both corporate and government, Childers said. Another 10 percent of the audience is made up of developers who are building and writing programs and applications that run on Linux, in addition to professionals in specialized areas like security, clustering and storage management.
Most of the training is delivered in an instructor-led classroom format. “Because our focus and the focus in the Linux market is highly technical, it is not surprising that the majority is four- and five-day instructor-led classroom training—92 percent of our training is taken in that format,” Childers said. In addition, Red Hat is a leader in e-learning, with self-paced learning, simulations and tutors who are certified as RHCEs. Customers who want to deliver a more flexible type of learning to their IT workers can blend the various formats.
“Our certifications are performance-based, and the training is hands-on-intensive—very focused on the skills employers need their technical staffs to have,” Childers said. “It’s focused on performance enhancement.”
Due to the large amount of classroom-based learning, and the need to bring more training to more locations, Red Hat has partnered with high-quality interim facility providers, such as MicroTek, Childers said. “We need to cover as many cities as possible and have open enrollment in as many cities as we can so our customers can find a Red Hat class within a short commute or perhaps at maximum, a two-hour commute from their location,” Childers said. “We’ve been doing that in an environment where others have had to reduce the number of locations they cover.”
Companies like MicroTek help ensure that learning leaders at Red Hat can stay focused on the mission-critical tasks associated with learning, according to Mike Wallrich, president of MicroTek. “What we see is that the companies should be focused on high-value tasks, such as content and training the instructors,” he said. “Those are high-value tasks, and they should outsource the low-value tasks, the facilities, aligning hotels for students and the logistics of setting up networks and the technology required to create a learning event. We take care of the low-value tasks.”
Red Hat uses this model to avoid the long-term costs of leased facilities in a volatile market, Childers said. “The market can change,” he said. “In IT training, it can be the case that in a city where you’re running five events per quarter, suddenly you’re running 15, and then it goes back to 10, and you’ve gotten into a lease that you may not need all the time. This is part of our solution to build a flexible services organization for our customers.”
Customers don’t only benefit from the flexibility of locations for Red Hat learning. They also are able to get better returns from their investments in Red Hat technology, according to Childers. Trained systems administrators ensure better availability, security and manageability of the Red Hat Network (RHN) environment at a lower cost. “Our customers are finding and are telling us that they can have more systems under the management of the same number of sysadmins,” Childers said. “A smaller number of sysadmins can manage a larger number of servers than when they used any other OS. This is a validation not only of the training, but the technology itself.”
Red Hat receives benefits from its customer training as well, including a closer customer relationship. “We have a better understand of the customer needs, and it’s also a source of revenue at Red Hat,” Childers said. “Our customers needs are expanding at both ends of the curriculum.” Childers said Red Hat will address those expanding needs by introducing enterprise architect-level learning at the high end, and desktop productivity training for the low end.