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3/6/2014
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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?

up behind Cloud Foundry, they were financing its ongoing development. Until Cloud Foundry was separated from VMware, they wouldn't have done such a thing. Once VMware/Pivotal relinquished control, it became a candidate for broader support, just as OpenStack had after Rackspace relinquished control of it.

The enlistment of Red Hat's ally, Rackspace, must also have been a bitter pill. Asked to comment on these developments, a Red Hat spokesman said, "Thanks for reaching out about this. We are going to respectfully decline to comment at this time."

On Feb. 24, the same day that Maritz announced independent governance for Cloud Foundry, IBM announced its BlueMix PaaS that will be "built on open standards and take advantage of Cloud Foundry." As a backer of OpenStack, Red Hat might have anticipated IBM would want to work with Project Solum in creating PaaS on OpenStack. Its embrace of the VMware/Pivotal PaaS was another blow.

It appeared that key OpenStack developers and member companies had decided, en masse, to place their primary PaaS bet on Cloud Foundry, not Project Solum or some future combination of Solum and OpenShift.

Won't Cloud Foundry and OpenShift both continue to exist? Can't they coexist as competing open-source options far into the future? Joshua McKenty, the CTO of Piston, a leading OpenStack distributor, doesn't think so. In an email message Tuesday, he said he will bet $10 that "Red Hat will join the Cloud Foundry Foundation by the end of the year."

"Solum is a stalking horse for Red Hat. They are trying to use it to inject OpenShift into OpenStack. It has no independent momentum. For a project to succeed inside OpenStack, and in almost all open source, it needs a use case and sponsors putting money behind it, and Solum doesn't have either."

McKenty made less blunt but similar comments to cloud blogger Ben Kepes, posted on Forbes.com Feb. 26. Red Hat declined when asked to respond to McKenty's comments.

Not so fast, said Alex Freedland, co-founder and chairman of Mirantis, an OpenStack consulting firm, in a phone interview. Red Hat has formidable development resources of its own and is "highly motivated to see OpenShift succeed." Without OpenShift, Red Hat's path to the cloud becomes unclear. It's an operating system vendor, but in the cloud, virtualization is the visible layer and Linux disappears behind management consoles and virtual machine managers. If Red Hat doesn't have an opportunity to provide software above the operating system, its future looks limited.

Freedland said Solum isn't left out in the cold just because the Cloud Foundry Foundation has formed. "I don't know how long before it's useful, but Red Hat is actually moving it along at a decent pace," he said.

The question, he said, is whether Red Hat can attract a following of developers that will rival the lineup now behind Cloud Foundry. So far, Red Hat is making 30% of the code contributions to Solum; Rackspace is making 22%; and Numergy, 20%. It's best if the primary sponsor of an open source project contributes 20%, with other parties making up the balance. It's taken as a sign of a healthy project, said Freedland. But Rackspace as a board member may move its developer contribution effort over to Cloud Foundry. Company spokesman were queried, but did not respond in time for this article.

Likewise, Solum is likely to lose IBM's contributions. It was in the second tier of contributors, along with Suse and Mirantis. With Red Hat competitor Canonical now in the Cloud Foundry camp, Suse may deem it wise to likewise join. Instead of decreasing, Red Hat's share of the contributions to Solum may rise steeply.

Cloud Foundry is likely to have its own issues to work out. 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. If Pivotal keeps its primary position as other vendors help develop the PaaS, then IBM and the others may want to rethink their commitment. But that equation was already clear as they signed up, and IBM, HP, and SAP tend to use open source as a means toward building a larger system, versus as a product in itself.

So the future of open-source PaaS is now anyone's guess. Will Red Hat sustain Solum, even if it has to work with a shrunken community, or will it throw in the towel, as McKenty suggested? OpenStack, Solum, and its new expertise in Docker containerization all indicate Red Hat will make a fight of it and try to keep open its own path into the cloud.

Can the trendy tech strategy of DevOps really bring peace between developers and IT operations -- and deliver faster, more reliable app creation and delivery? Also in the DevOps Challenge issue of InformationWeek: Execs charting digital business strategies can't afford to take Internet connectivity for granted.

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

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Charlie Babcock
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.
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