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RedHat Takes On VMware For PaaS Crown

Red Hat maneuvers to get its OpenShift platform into as many enterprises as possible, with an eye to private cloud dominance.

Platform-as-a-service is on its way to becoming an essential ingredient of enterprise private clouds. Open-source leader Red Hat is beefing up its entrant, OpenShift, in an Enterprise 2.0 version that will be a strong option for developers that might otherwise be looking at VMware's Pivotal spinoff, with its Cloud Foundry PaaS component. 

PaaS typically provides tools, a code check-in and check-out repository, and the ability to roll back a recent build to a more reliable version. It provides team processes and collaborative development tools in a cloud environment. Red Hat Enterprise Linux is already a favored operating system for running workloads in public cloud services. Now Red Hat needs to find its follow-up success, and it's looking to its PaaS offering.

One indicator of how key OpenShift is to Red Hat's future is the fact that it is used at PayPal, even though PayPal's basic approach to virtualization is through VMware products. PayPal is remaking itself as a VMware datacenter running an OpenStack private cloud. With both OpenShift and Cloud Foundry available as open-source, PayPal opted for what it viewed as the most open option available to its IT staff -- OpenShift.

In its on-premises OpenShift Enterprise 2.0 version, Red Hat is trying to make OpenShift even more attractive, says Ashesh Badani, general manager of OpenShift and cloud at Red Hat. OpenShift is available as both an on-premises and online product. It started out two-and-a-half years ago as online PaaS, hosted on Amazon Web Services.

[Want to learn more about OpenShift? See Red Hat Unwraps OpenShift Enterprise At Amazon Event.]

Red Hat updates the online version of OpenShift once a month, a process that's easy for a practiced software-as-a-service vendor. Users of the on-premises version get those same changes rolled up in a new release every four months or so. About 50 updates have been added to the Enterprise version since it was launched a year ago, Badani told us.

One of the most significant additions is a new administrative console that gives a manager greater visibility into the applications under development and their deployment, as well as the development process itself. A project manager can see who is using what resources where, how much capacity is left on different compute nodes, and where capacity may be oversubscribed by developer apps.

OpenShift has been equipped with a plug-in that allows it to host developer applications and route data to them from an existing corporate network. Load-balancer and router traffic can be integrated into overall OpenShift operations.

As with Pivotal's Cloud Foundry and Heroku on Amazon's EC2, OpenShift previously supported languages popular with current application developers, including: Ruby, Python, PHP, and Perl. In Enterprise 2.0, it's added Node.js for server-based JavaScript operations often used with interactive mobile apps.

Red Hat has made OpenShift easier to install on-premises with a new wizard that automates the application of scripts to get the system up and running, Badani noted. Its goal is to make installation easier for those without a lot of experience with the system.

OpenShift allows developers to deploy their applications in containers, or logical software frameworks, that provide a barrier to another application or process intruding on its operation. Red Hat containers are engineered to be used with Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux), and it's entered a partnership with the Docker open-source project, which produces the Docker container system, Badani said. Once in a standard container (such as Docker), an application and its dependencies may be moved from environment to environment, with the container recognized and integrated into operations in a standard way.

Red Hat is looking to outstrip the competition by bringing ease of middleware use to its PaaS platform in a future release. With its JBoss product set, Red Hat may have an advantage over its competitors.

There is a community-supported version of OpenShift, known as Origin, that is freely downloadable open-source code. The on-premises version with an annual technical support contract is $4,000 for a version that runs on two cores of a server, says Badani.

The crucible of cloud, big data, and distributed computing is hell on systems. Will application performance management cool down complexity -- or just add fuel to the fire? Also in the new, all-digital APM Under Fire special issue of InformationWeek: Cloud industry heavyweights discuss the pros and cons of OpenStack support for Amazon APIs. (Free registration required.)