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4/16/2014
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Red Hat Touts Linux Containers For Cloud

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.

[Want to learn more about containerized virtual machines? Read Docker Finds Open Source Success.]

"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.

To support this approach,

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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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Stratustician
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Stratustician,
User Rank: Ninja
4/18/2014 | 11:32:11 AM
Re: Containers next big thing?
I agree, it's not the perfect solution for everyone, but the beauty of this model aside from rapid deployment, is that if developers can make the applications fully contained, the usability for more novice cloud folks will be a lot more attractive than trying to code or implement something that requires more moving pieces before it can be functional.  If indeed Linux containers are able to standardize and make it easy for adoption of the applications, we could see a great influx of organizations leveraging cloud technology than we would have seen with other methods of development.
Andrew Binstock
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Andrew Binstock,
User Rank: Author
4/17/2014 | 4:04:38 PM
Re: Containers next big thing?
That's right. Dockers are a subset of true VMs. This makes them attractive for quick deploy esp. for developers with straightforward cloud apps, but they're not suitable for all VM use cases.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
4/17/2014 | 1:43:34 PM
Re: Containers next big thing?
Gregory396, Containers as Red Hat is using the term are specific to Unix systems and in its case, of course, Linux. I'm not sure what Citrix is doing in a similar vein with XenApp. I'd be cautious about saying hypervisor suppliers are dependent on hardware vendors for access to the cloud. Both AMD and Intel make it easier for hypervisors to get hardware services they need through virtualization hooks and shortcuts built into the chip. But hypervisor workloads re not literally dependent on hardware manufacturers to move into the cloud. Maybe that's not what you meant.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
4/17/2014 | 1:34:31 PM
RE: Is this really new?
CumuloNimbus, I guess the short answer is, yes, there's a lot new here. I don't blame you for a little skepticism and containers are an old idea. But Red Hat, in connection with Docker, is implementing them in a way that's useful for moving cloud workloads efficiently. See IDC analyst Al Hilwa's comments at the end of this column: Red Hat Linux Containers; Not Just Recycled Ideas

http://www.informationweek.com/cloud/platform-as-a-service/red-hat-linux-containers-not-just-recycled-ideas/d/d-id/1204530?piddl_msgid=210201&piddl_msgposted=yes#msg_210201 

 
GregoryS396
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GregoryS396,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/16/2014 | 10:00:50 PM
Re: Containers next big thing?
Seems to me this is the same approach that Citrix uses with Xen App, but refined further.  Similarly Xenapp Compartmentalizes a running application that users connect to via any thin client or thin client application.  Ultimately Red Hat like all the other Hypervisors relies on the hardware vendors for cloud access.  With that said I would be curious to see what types of replication this supports, or if this would as I believe the article implies still rely on vmware for the hypervisor.
cumulonimbus
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cumulonimbus,
User Rank: Strategist
4/16/2014 | 3:16:56 PM
Is this really new?
At first impression this seems like a rehash of an old idea. I would have to ask how this is relevant moving forward if there is a law similar Moore's Law which applies to bandwidth and storage? If you are dealing with a small volume of data which you need to migrate, then the o/s size is significant, otherwise why would you care, and is not the former case trivial anyway? You could always just migrate the data.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
4/16/2014 | 2:18:01 PM
Why are containers described as "lightweight?"
The application in the container gets part of its operating system services from "user mode" libraries included in the container and part from the Linux kernel on the host server. The parameters in the container insure that the host kernel is a compatible one. Thus, the application doesn't need to carry the whole operating system with it as its transported into the cloud. And in theory, more containers can run on a host than virtual machines, due to this lighter weight of this configuration.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
4/16/2014 | 1:16:09 PM
Containers next big thing?
Red Hat President Paul Cormier Tues. pooh poohed notion that containers were competition for VMware. Next morning, Red Hat CTO Brian Stevens in Summit keynote calls Linux containers "the next phase of virtualization." That's not quite true. In some cases, containers could replace virtual machines for higher density operation on cloud hosts. They provide isolation similar to virtualization. But they don't pool and manage resources in the data center like virtualization.
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