Red Hat teams with Docker, urges developers to consider Linux-based containers as a lightweight alternative to virtual machine files for moving workloads to the cloud.
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Red Hat is turning to lightweight Linux containers to package workloads for transport to the cloud. As others take a rival approach sponsored by VMware-originated Cloud Foundry, Red Hat is standing by its OpenShift platform as a future element of OpenStack clouds.
Red Hat is also aligning with Docker to help make containerized applications a new reality in the enterprise and in the cloud. Docker supplies the container format that Red Hat will standardize in its OpenShift platform-as-a-service (PaaS) for developers. While other forms of Linux containers exist, Docker leads in making the technology both easily used and portable among different clouds.
Linux containers can be used to move workloads in the virtualized datacenter as virtual machine files, or as a more efficient approach that doesn't drag a full copy of the operating system with the application, as virtual machines do.
At the Red Hat Summit in San Francisco on Tuesday, Red Hat's Paul Cormier, president of products and technologies, said that virtual machines are perfectly adequate for the 1.0 version of the cloud -- but Linux containers have the potential to make cloud workloads simpler, better, and more mobile. Containers, he added, are for cloud 2.0-style operations.
"Personally, I think containers are a much simpler way to get applications out to the cloud," Cormier said during a question-and-answer session. Red Hat will not need to displace VMware in the datacenter with its own form of virtualization based on KVM (an unlikely prospect in any event), nor will it need to sell a long chain of products to encourage the adoption of containers. On the contrary, the company is betting on developers recognizing a simpler, lighter way of doing things.
Jim Totton, VP and general manager of Red Hat's platform business unit, said Linux containers can be more lightweight than virtual machines because they don't need to include all 3,000 open-source software packages that can make up a Linux distribution. In contrast, they require only the "user mode" part of the operating system that consists of the Linux runtime libraries needed by the application. When the container reaches its cloud destination, the container format tells the cloud host server which Linux kernel it needs to run under, and the host supplies that part of the operating system.
Asked what the bit count of containerized Linux would be compared to the full version found in a virtual machine, Cormier replied that it would depend on how much of the operating system the workload originator wanted to include in the container. But, he added, it would consistently have a smaller footprint and be quicker to initiate in the cloud.
Red Hat isn't necessarily using containers to compete with VMware. Rather, the company hopes that in some cases, developers will package applications in containers, thus stepping over the large VMware presence in the enterprise datacenter on their way to the cloud.
Cormier said Linux containers form a solid basis for planning hybrid cloud operations, where workloads sometimes run in an enterprise datacenter and other times are shuffled out to run in a public cloud. Red Hat offers a service to verify whether containerized applications have been formatted properly, and it will certify cloud servers as ready to run such workloads.
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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