Red Hat Addresses OpenStack Support Flap - InformationWeek

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5/15/2014
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Red Hat Addresses OpenStack Support Flap

Red Hat leaders deny allegations, made in a Wall Street Journal report, that the company would refuse to support Red Hat Enterprise Linux on non-Red Hat versions of OpenStack.

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Red Hat is about to refuse support to customers who implement a version of the OpenStack cloud other than its own, according to a Wall Street Journal report Tuesday. The Journal's report was based on what it said were internal Red Hat documents. Red Hat immediately disputed the claim.

"In its quest to sell OpenStack, Red Hat has chosen not to provide support to its commercial Linux customers if they use rival versions of OpenStack, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal," said a report posted late Tuesday to the newspaper's website.

But Red Hat president Paul Cormier in a blog Wednesday said the report is incorrect. "To be clear, users are free to deploy Red Hat Enterprise Linux [RHEL] with any OpenStack offering, and there is no requirement to use our OpenStack technologies to get a Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscription," Cormier wrote, directly rebutting the report. Both the WSJ report and Cormier's rejoinder came in the middle of an OpenStack Summit in Atlanta this week. Red Hat is a sponsor of the event.

Nevertheless, there was enough smoke associated with the WSJ story to prompt an outpouring of fiery comments from customers, partners, and OpenStack collaborators. And Cormier himself indicated Red Hat believed OpenStack would run RHEL workloads best if customers adhered to the Red Hat distribution of OpenStack. RHEL and its cloud software "are developed, built, integrated, and supported together to create Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform. This requires tight feature and fix alignment between the kernel, the hypervisor, and OpenStack services."

[Learn more about another Red Hat cloud workload initiative. See Red Hat Containers: Not Just Recycled Ideas.]

The Journal quoted Martin Fink, head of HP's cloud unit, as saying: "Red Hat has taken the art form of closed open source to a new level." HP and Red Hat cooperate to provide customers with RHEL and compete with respective distributions of OpenStack open-source code. HP would like Red Hat to make it easier for HP customers to run Red Hat workloads, and not maneuver RHEL toward optimum operations only with its own OpenStack Platform.

Red Hat has an estimated 64% of the enterprise Linux market, according to market research firm IDC. Workloads sent to Amazon Web Services or Rackspace are often designated to run under RHEL because of its structured updates and quality assurance process. Some critics say that Red Hat can use its dominance of the enterprise market to force feed what supporting systems will work with RHEL, such as JBoss middleware versus competitor's offerings.

However, 87% of Red Hat's $1.5 billion in revenue last year came from sales of subscriptions to its RHEL operating system, not other software products. A subscription is basically a one-year or longer support and updates agreement.

Paul Cormier at April's Red Hat Summit 2014.  (Source: Red Hat)
Paul Cormier at April's Red Hat Summit 2014.
(Source: Red Hat)

The Wall Street Journal article described other Red Hat moves on OpenStack and claimed they illustrate the company's desire to achieve vendor lock-in. When the OpenStack consulting firm Mirantis issued its own OpenStack distribution last October, Red Hat dissolved a joint services partnership with the firm, the WSJ said.

According to "a confidential Red Hat memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal," Red Hat employees were instructed, "Do not work with Mirantis. We should not engage them jointly with any customers or leverage their services for delivery of our products." Red Hat had invested in Mirantis in June; the order to stop working with it came in November, according to the WSJ.

It also cited a February voicemail between Red Hat and one of its large resellers in which unnamed Red Hat senior executives had "encouraged us very strongly to not partner with Mirantis" due to "some emotional feelings. Red Hat's Cormier is cited as saying in response to WSJ's questioning

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Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive ... View Full Bio

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Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
5/15/2014 | 2:16:30 PM
Mirantis exec. urges support for multiple OpenStacks
Mirantis co-founder and chairman Alex Feedland also said: "Red Hat would do the community a great service if it makes it easier to run RHEL guests on top of various OpeStack and Linux distributions." He noted Ubuntu, VMware and CentOS Linuxes currently support more than one version of OpenStack.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
5/15/2014 | 1:19:24 PM
The watchdogs will remain on high alert
It's so early in private enterprise OpenStack implementations, and OpenStack modules are changing so fast that it makes some sense for Red Hat to support each new distribution only reluctantly. But IBM, Rackspace, HP and many other parties sense the potential influcence Red Hat will gain if OpenStack's optimum performance gets tethered to Red Hat's widely used Enterprise Linux. Right now, Red Hat is guilty of something, until proven innocent, to some members of the OpenStack community. Always hard to prove your innocense in operations filled with normal business motives, Still, it never hurts to have the watchdogs of open source code functioning on high alert.
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