Cloud // Platform as a Service
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5/4/2011
03:52 PM
Charles Babcock
Charles Babcock
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Red Hat Cloud Platform Challenges VMware, Microsoft

The beta release of OpenShift uses Amazon as a platform for building interoperable cloud workloads.

Red Hat's first shot at cloud computing was too painful for customers, needing either deep open source expertise or a consulting contract with Red Hat. Now, Red Hat's coming out with something more promising, a platform-as-a-service called OpenShift that uses tools familiar to many open source developers.

It's an approach that has a chance--with some important caveats. Among other things, it's taking on platforms from Microsoft and VMware.

In addition, Red Hat said at its annual user group Summit in Boston Wednesday that it is not trying to target one type of cloud but produce standardized workloads that can be exported to either a company's private cloud or a variety of public clouds, including Amazon Web Service's EC2. In another departure, it's trying to shift the focus of cloud building away from creation and management of virtual machine workloads to the creation and management of cloud applications that endure for a long lifecycle. That lifecycle would include frequent alterations to match changing business needs.

With these moves, Red Hat is trying to differentiate itself from VMware and Microsoft. It's trying to offer a more open development platform compared with those two vendors, which are the leading contenders for companies building private and hybrid cloud architectures. VMware and Microsoft have each provided extensive platforms to support their virtual environments. Each results in some degree of lock in.

Red Hat is one of the few companies that could bring this combination of elements to do-it-yourself cloud building. It has a backbone constituency of Enterprise Linux users throughout the corporate world and is the only open source company with revenue that are expected to cross the $1 billion mark for the first time this fiscal year. Perhaps the second most successful open source company is MySQL AB, which was sold in 2008 to Sun Microsystems for $1 billion, and its annual revenue was less than $200 million, by most accounts.

Red Hat is moving far beyond its previous "support" for cloud builders, represented by its announcement of Cloud Foundations at last year's Red Hat Summit in Boston. Cloud Foundations was a stack built on Enterprise Linux and JBoss middleware but, like other cloud products, was focused on building virtual machines suitable for Amazon or other targeted VM environments.

OpenShift provides an application development environment initially hosted on Amazon's EC2 cloud. Developers may work there in a variety of open source languages, including Ruby, Python, and PHP, and then target the application for deployment in the cloud. For now, the default deployment environment is also EC2 or an organization's internal cloud data center.

But in talking to Red Hat CTO Brian Stevens, he says that OpenShift environment supplies standardized APIs for cloud services, and "with a one line command," the application can be deployed to a different cloud "without figuring out all the nuances" of the target environment. This approach hinges on developers adopting Red Hat's recommended Deltacloud APIs, and at least some public cloud suppliers supporting them. More typically, a developer would need to master the details of a target's API set.

Red Hat has been an advocate of its Deltacloud interoperability API standard and has submitted it to the DMTF standards body. But Red Hat hasn't published even a short list of cloud environments that support Deltacloud. In addition, there are competitors with open APIs, such as Simple Cloud API sponsored by Zend Technologies, IBM, and Microsoft; or open source verisions of EC2's APIs, supplied by Eucalyptus. The OpenStack project is creating another set of open source cloud APIs and has submitted them to DMTF as well.

Red Hat is making a bet on Deltacloud APIs, saying that by building services calls to its neutral Deltacloud APIs, cloud developers at least have the option of finding conversion services to a cloud of choice or using those clouds that have chosen to recognize it.

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