Cloud // Platform as a Service
News
3/6/2014
09:48 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Cloud Crossroads: Which Way PaaS?

As allies and competitors line up behind the new Cloud Foundry Foundation, where does that leave Red Hat and its support of OpenStack and Project Solum?

Top 10 Cloud Fiascos
Top 10 Cloud Fiascos
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

There's a fight brewing over which form of open-source platform-as-a-service should command developer loyalties and serve as the basis for future cloud applications.

Should it be native to the main open-source cloud project, OpenStack, and work closely with OpenStack components?

Or is it good enough that it runs on top of OpenStack but has a broad mix of powerful backers to sponsor its development?

Red Hat was counting on the former and working to combine its OpenShift PaaS and a new OpenStack project, Solum, to form a powerful new PaaS platform. Red Hat is a leading contributor to OpenStack, and a set of Red Hat engineers jumped into Project Solum within hours of its announcement by Rackspace. The combination of OpenShift and Solum was an exciting prospect, wrote Red Hat's OpenShift guru Matt Hicks back on Oct. 24.

"While OpenStack is a fast moving space, we have a lot of experience with it and believe that there is tremendous potential to align our PaaS approach with this project," he wrote in that blog post. Red Hat would supply development tools and Linux container expertise; Solum would provide application deployment and lifecycle management. It seemed a perfect marriage. But that's not how it's working out.

Rackspace's principal architect, Adrian Otto, launched Project Solum and also posted a complimentary blog Oct. 24 on the Rackspace website. He said, "We feel very fortunate to be working with eBay, RedHat, Ubuntu/Canonical" and others in forming Project Solum.

That mutual admiration makes it difficult to explain why, after just four months of collaboration, Rackspace appears to have changed its mind and is now a sponsor of Cloud Foundry, the competing open-source PaaS. It's not just contributing code but ponying up big bucks to launch a Cloud Foundry Foundation and sit on its board of directors as a platinum sponsor. Red Hat's other erstwhile ally, Canonical, is sitting on the community advisory board of the new foundation, due to appear this summer, according to an announcement Feb 24.

[Are you addressing the top threats to cloud security? See 9 Worst Cloud Security Threats.]

Cloud Foundry is open-source PaaS, started by VMware and spun out with other VMware-owned open-source code into EMC and VMware's Pivotal Software subsidiary, headed by Paul Maritz. Maritz sensed Pivotal had a successful open-source project on its hands that already enjoyed broad backing and the activity of 750 developers. It would be more successful, he and others concluded, if it could be freed from what many viewed as VMware and Pivotal's dominance of the project.

"Cloud Foundry ... has evolved into the basis for a true open platform ecosystem," Maritz wrote in a Feb. 24 blog on the Pivotal site. PaaS is one of the primary forms of cloud computing, probably second to infrastructure-as-a-service (characterized by Amazon Web Services). With PaaS, developers get a broad set of tools and development assistance on the basic plumbing of an application, allowing them to produce end results faster. PaaS also looks to assist the time-consuming task of preparing a new application for deployment.

Both Cloud Foundry and OpenShift look to help developers produce applications and then give them several cloud-deployment options. Maritz's comments mirror an ongoing debate within the cloud community over how effective PaaS can be by itself. Isn't it really just a feature of good IaaS? His answer was no, it's important on its own, and Cloud Foundry will prove it.

(Image credit: Wikipedia Commons.)
(Image credit: Wikipedia Commons.)

To a still-unknown extent, that's newly hatched competition and potential bad news to Red Hat, which was counting on the "native to OpenStack" Solum, combined with Red Hat Linux and Red Hat OpenShift.

Red Hat is a dominant player in its own right when it comes to the Linux operating system. Workloads that enterprises send into the cloud, when they run under Linux, are overwhelmingly running under Red Hat Enterprise Linux, thanks to Red Hat's extensive testing of the system. By linking OpenShift to OpenStack, Red Hat had a shot at capturing more developers and tying them more closely to its growing catalogue of Red Hat middleware and virtualization software.

Key industry players don't want to go along with it on that path. IBM and HP are backers of OpenStack, but they're also platinum sponsors of the Cloud Foundry Foundation, along with SAP, EMC, VMware, and Rackspace. Platinum sponsors commit to support the foundation with paid developers and financing. (In the case of OpenStack, platinum sponsors pay $500,000 a year and get a guaranteed board seat.) CenturyLink and ActiveState will also join the new foundation as gold sponsors. They will contribute a lesser amount and nominate a candidate for the board, with a limited number of seats drawn from all gold sponsors.

Red Hat could only have watched in dismay as Pivotal's moves shifted the terms of discussion over open-source PaaS. Not only were some of the early and savvy backers of the Apache Web Server and Linux, such as IBM, lining

Next Page

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek, having joined the publication in 2003. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse ... View Full Bio

Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
<<   <   Page 2 / 2
Charlie Babcock
100%
0%
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
3/7/2014 | 3:24:56 PM
Re: How will this PaaS tragedy play out...
Mark Thiele of InterNAP SuperNAP data center builder, (just renamed from Switch), makes an excellent point. There is a bigger issue here. There's no such thing as a cross-cloud PaaS platform, with one or two immature exceptions. Maybe this debate contributes to thinking about one, maybe it doesn't.
Charlie Babcock
0%
100%
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
3/7/2014 | 3:13:18 PM
Does Joshua only pay north of the border?
Brent at ActiveState, not sure why you played the Canadian card. Joshua McKenty is a pretty ranking member here in the Silicon Valley, as well as a Canadian. Do you mean he'll only pays up north of the border? That'll cost him. Isn't the Loonie still worth more than U.S. dollar?
mthiele1001
IW Pick
100%
0%
mthiele1001,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/7/2014 | 2:12:55 PM
How will this "PaaS' tragedy play out is anyone's guess
I really liked Charles' take on the current news relative to Openshift, CloudFoundry and Solum. I'm not sure where I can find fault with any of the arguments he made, but I do think the story and some of the associated comments miss the bigger point about PaaS and it's associated opportunity. Of course if this debate is really just about Solum and Openshift and whether or not they can succeed considering recent industry "re-alignments" that's anyone's guess. Certainly I would have given RedHat's package of offerings more strength if they had maintained a broader and deeper set of contributers. 

The "missed" bigger point in my mind is the gap that many of the current PaaS solutions have relative to being a true "generic" install layer for all applications. There are limitations in all of the current PaaS platforms relative to their ability to absorb any application with any set of tools. The one group that seems to have made the most headway in removing adoption risk (read lock in to specific design architecture for installation of applications) is ActiveState. I'll be the first to admit that I haven't installed and personally tested their solution in an enterprise environment, but if their story is correct, I believe they are taking the right path. 

I strongly believe that we are still all too often considering the adoption of new solutions (I.e., PaaS) as if they are an all or nothing play. We also tend to forget that the dominate adoption opportunities are in several distinct verticals (large SPs/Webscale environments and large enterprise) each of these verticals will have drastically different requirements and adoption models. We may in fact find that complex enterprise environments (shudder to think) might end up with multiple PaaS solutions that are each suited to specific design characteristics in their environment. Of course Bart Copeland might successfully argue/demonstrate that the ActiveState solution can solve the majority of needs. 
brentsmi
50%
50%
brentsmi,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/7/2014 | 12:34:40 PM
Re: To ActiveState Brent: that's not much of an endorsement
I don't think you'd need to declare it here in Canada...
krishsubramanian
100%
0%
krishsubramanian,
User Rank: Strategist
3/7/2014 | 12:19:29 PM
Re: $10 that Joshua McKenty could lose
I am betting $100 that Red Hat *need not* join the CF Foundation. I am not saying this as a Red Hat employee but as an industry observer and as someone who has been advocating PaaS for the past several years (including Cloud Foundry in the past). Most of the pundits are missing the point. The OSS Foundation is about doing open source right. It is especially critical if proprietary vendors are involved in the process. OpenStack is a good example of this and Cloud Foundry is another example. Foundation talks only about the community contribution of source code and the rights and responsibilities associated with it. It has NO IMPACT on the industry adoption of technology. If that is the case, OpenStack and CloudStack should have decimated Amazon, Microsoft, Google and VMware. Conflating the community aspect with industry marketshare is plain marketing by the vendors involved. I am going to do an article talking about this. Expect one by early next week.  
Charlie Babcock
IW Pick
100%
0%
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
3/6/2014 | 8:57:01 PM
IBM SoftLayer CEO Lance Crosby comments
I asked Lance Crosby, CEO of IBM SoftLayer, in an interview the day before this piece appeared why IBM would fund Cloud Foundry over OpenStack Solum/ Red Hat OpenShift. He said: "OpenStack to us is a little below that (PaaS) layer. It's a framework where you bring in the platform that you want, like Cloud Foundry. If it (OpenStack) gets muddy too early, it will be hard for it to be everything to everybody."
Charlie Babcock
100%
0%
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
3/6/2014 | 8:32:48 PM
To ActiveState Brent: that's not much of an endorsement
Ah, gee, Brent Smithurst, that's not much of an endorsement of Red Hat's OpenShift. I guess I'm going to have to accept Joshua's bet myself. Will I have to declare that $10 as income?
brentsmi
50%
50%
brentsmi,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/6/2014 | 6:53:13 PM
Re: $10 that Joshua McKenty could lose
I'll take that bet, Charles. Not that I think OpenShift has a bright future on its own, but because I think it will take them longer than 10 months to figure it out.

By the way, your comment, "There are now powerful vendors who might like to develop Cloud Foundry products that generate revenue, but so far the only one successfully doing so is Pivotal," is incorrect. ActiveState has been selling Stackato (based on Cloud Foundry and Docker) commercially for over two years and we are having great success with it.

Regardless of the above, I enjoyed your article!
Charlie Babcock
50%
50%
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
3/6/2014 | 12:45:37 PM
$10 that Joshua McKenty could lose
Piston's Joshua McKenty wants to bet $10 Red Hat will join the Cloud Foundry project by the end of 2014. Anyone want to take that bet? I think it's $10 that he could lose.
<<   <   Page 2 / 2
Google in the Enterprise Survey
Google in the Enterprise Survey
There's no doubt Google has made headway into businesses: Just 28 percent discourage or ban use of its productivity ­products, and 69 percent cite Google Apps' good or excellent ­mobility. But progress could still stall: 59 percent of nonusers ­distrust the security of Google's cloud. Its data privacy is an open question, and 37 percent worry about integration.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest September 24, 2014
Start improving branch office support by tapping public and private cloud resources to boost performance, increase worker productivity, and cut costs.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.