Red Hat Heads for the Cloud with OpenShift

June 6, 2013


Red Hat Heads for the Cloud with OpenShift » The TEC Blog

It would be an understatement to say that Red Hat is an interesting enterprise software company. Since its founding in 1994 and initial public offering (IPO) in 1999, the vendor has focused on businesses and divisions thereof that embrace open-source computing tools. In 2001, Red Hat introduced Enterprise Linux, a “frozen” mature version of Linux whose support and maintenance the vendor could guarantee (for a fee) until the next mature version would be officially released (say, a few years later). This approach shields users from the potential disruptions of continual enhancements that the open-source community keeps bringing to the Linux kernel.

Red Hat currently dominates the market for Linux, the open-source computer operating system (OS) and main rival to the Microsoft Windows OS (and other proprietary OS products on the market). As of April 2012, Red Hat is the largest corporate contributor to the Linux kernel. Red Hat creates, maintains, and contributes to many free software projects and has acquired several open-source and proprietary software packages over the years. The company releases its source code under mostly GNU General Public License (GPL) while holding copyright under single commercial entity and selling user subscriptions.

Red Hat’s acquisition of JBoss middleware in 2006, one of its largest ones to date, has allowed the vendor to provide many additional layers to its information technology (IT) infrastructure stack. Thus, in addition to its flagship Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) OS, the company’s product line now includes storage, collaboration management applications, server (and embedded OS), software development tools, middleware, and system management products. Red Hat also provides consulting, custom application development, support, and training services. The company’s business model is a mix of providing free and open-source software (FOSS) paired with subscription-based support, training, and integration services. Red Hat’s revenue currently stands at more than $1.3 billion (USD).If it were selling proprietary software, that number could theoretically be at about several billion, but the company’s strategy is to be the industry disruptor (i.e., of business models of Oracle, Microsoft, etc.), rather than yet another proprietary software giant.

In enterprises, Red Hat is typically used to fill gaps and provide alternatives to absorptive “point solutions” licenses, maintenance, and forced upgrades. More and more independent software vendors (ISVs) select Red Hat as the Java application server and middleware (in addition to or versus pricey Oracle WebLogic or IBM WebSphere). While these proprietary platforms might still have a few more bells and whistles, Red Hat is very competitive when it comes to portals, big data (data grids), complex event processing (CEP), business rules management system (BRMS; based on Drools, which is nearly as good as IBM ILOG and Pegasystems BRMS), and business process management (BPM; after acquiring Polymita in 2012). Mobility is in the works via the Aerogear open-source community project and Red Hat partner ecosystem, though at this stage, Red Hat does not offer relational databases, business intelligence (BI)/analytics, enterprise content management (ECM), and master data management (MDM) tools.

Jumping on the Cloud Bandwagon

Red Hat has also lately been involved in cloud computing and virtualization along similar open-source principles. (Research shows that more than 70 percent of cloud software businesses and their infrastructures, including’s and IBM’s, run on Linux servers.) More than a year ago, Red Hat began assigning its engineers to contribute to the OpenStack project. Those initial few resources have grown into a significant OpenStack engineering team that Red Hat continues to grow. At the spring and fall OpenStack 2012 conferences, Red Hat was recognized as the No. 3 overall corporate code contributor to the Essex release and the No. 2 overall corporate code contributor to the Folsom release. In April 2013, Red Hat moved to become the number one corporate code contributor to the OpenStack Grizzly release.

OpenStack is an open-source project for building a private or public infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud running on standard hardware. The typical analogy is that OpenStack gives enterprises public cloud–like capabilities in their data center. Red Hat’s open hybrid cloud portfolio includes the following:

  • Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) for managing virtualized data centers
  • RHEL and Red Hat JBoss Middleware for building cloud applications
  • Red Hat Storage for hybrid cloud data access and storage
  • Red Hat CloudForms for hybrid cloud management
  • OpenShift by Red Hat for platform as a service (PaaS)


Figure 1

The aforementioned CloudForms is Red Hat’s hybrid IaaS cloud management product. Red Hat recently acquired ManageIQ and plans to merge that product and its capabilities with CloudForms. While CloudForms and ManageIQ are focused on hybrid cloud management for IaaS clouds, OpenShift Enterprise is a cloud computing PaaS solution designed for on-premise or private cloud deployments. OpenShift Origin is the upstream community project for Red Hat’s OpenShift product.

Enter Red Hat PaaS

While IaaS provides on-demand access to raw compute resources, and software as a service (SaaS) provides on-demand access to a complete application, PaaS enables on-demand access to a cloud-based application platform (see figure 1). This facility enables enterprises to build the applications they need and run them in a cloud architecture (see figure 2). OpenShift Enterprise automates much of the provisioning and systems management of the application platform stack. This allows IT operations teams to more easily meet the growing demand for new application services coming from the business.

OpenShift Enterprise provides an on-demand, elastic (scalable), and fully configured application development, testing, and hosting environment for application developers so they can focus on coding those new application services. Once installed in a data center or as a private cloud, OpenShift Enterprise provides a self-service capability to developers. This allows developers to create scalable applications in the PaaS with their choice of programming languages and middleware, and begin coding applications quickly from their favorite development environments.


Figure 2

Using either the Web console, command-line tooling, or Eclipse-based integrated development environment (IDE), a developer simply requests an application instance from OpenShift Enterprise. This request instantiates the application in the supporting cloud and provides necessary access information to the developers so they can immediately begin coding. The developer pushes code updates to the cloud-based application via the distributed Git source code control system and Git protocol secured with SSH (Secure Shell) communication. It also includes and makes available development tools such as Maven for build management and Jenkins for continuous integration, all configured automatically in the PaaS environment.


Figure 3

Once the application coding is complete, OpenShift Enterprise hosts the application and scales it as needed in an elastic fashion. It is important to note that Red Hat’s OpenShift offering for private clouds is already available, and users pay subscriptions only for service and maintenance (fixes). This product is called OpenShift Enterprise and was released in late 2012 (see figures 3 and 4). On the other hand, the public PaaS offering has been in a preview mode for more than 18 months, and this service is called OpenShift Online. Its general availability (GA) announcement date is not yet public, but its GA is expected in “mid 2013,” possibly during the Red Hat Summit annual conference in June 2013 in Boston.


Figure 4

Red Hat points out that the so-called PaaS 1.0 generation locks-in customers in multiple ways, starting with no choice of programming language due to proprietary application programming interfaces (APIs) and integration services. Other lock-ins come from the lack of choice of hosting facility and no choice of operational management style. In contrast, figure 5 shows the “polyglot” nature of OpenShift and the JBoss protfolio. One cannot underestimate the value of the JBoss portfolio, first, as a stack for all kinds of services, and second, for its role in integrating apps in heterogeneous public + private cloud environments.

Figure 5

In addition, some proprietary PaaS providers are “killing” their ISVs with costs. For example,’s main values are broad awareness and proven architecture, but the cost is higher than expected. If one uses,, or Heroku (all parts of the Salesforce Platform), in addition to paying for the platform license, also gets 25 percent from net revenues. From those ISVs that use their own platforms and connect via APIs with’s solutions in the AppExchange market place, that cut for is 15 percent of net revenues. Though some of those companies are a few-employee shops, does not give them any discounts or delayed payment as fledgling incubator businesses. Thus, although the pricing model is not yet known, Red Hat’s upcoming public PaaS offering might take away the developers from proprietary PaaS providers.

Red Hat OpenShift Team Talks

Red Hat has great technology but at this stage I can see its add-on appeal that is focusing line of business (LoB) users. To that end, as well as to discuss many other issues, below are my questions to the OpenShift team and its answers.

PJ: The kicker here will be the cloud portability, whereby one can migrate from public to private cloud, etc., and in either direction. Not only do users get only a cloud option from or Google, but also once they cancel their subscription, they will have a hard time taking their data and transactional history and going elsewhere (without a hefty penalty). Do you concur with this assessment?
RHOS: Yes, cloud portability and avoiding lock-in are key aspects of Red Hat’s open hybrid cloud approach. Applications should port with no changes, whereby frameworks and middleware should be standard. Cloud providers should enable portability between PaaS to another PaaS, PaaS to Data center, and Data center to PaaS.

Also, most enterprise customers we speak to are not ready to move all their workloads to a public cloud provider because they have large infrastructure investments, security, compliance, or other governance-related concerns—so a hybrid cloud approach is essential. Our products can be used together, as customers may choose to deploy OpenShift Enterprise on their IaaS cloud managed with CloudForms (see figure 6).

Figure 6

PJ: Which profile of end user, ISV partner, etc., are you targeting with OpenShift Online? Are you closer to IT staff or LoB users? Are you closer to the Salesforce Platform or GoogleApp Engine (or something in-between)?
RHOS: OpenShift Online is our public PaaS service. We compete most directly with Heroku, rather than, which are really more focused on users that are building add-ons for We also compete with Google AppEngine and Amazon Elastic Beanstalk in the public PaaS space.

PJ: What about an app store strategy?
RHOS: An app store strategy is something we are currently assessing for OpenShift and discussing with partners. However, we are not ready to announce anything at this point.

PJ: Your costs may be lower, but how can you make up for lost sales/marketing ground versus and other better-known PaaS providers?
RHOS: Red Hat’s open hybrid cloud strategy is the key to our success and that is what we are focused on driving. Red Hat also has a lot of core technology in the areas of Linux OS platform, middleware, virtualization, and software-based storage solutions, which are all key building blocks for cloud computing. And we are the recognized leaders in open source and bringing that to the enterprise, and are bringing that same innovation to the PaaS space with OpenShift.

PJ: Please refresh my memory on your OpenShift database, social media, mobility, and analytics/BI strategy? What is already available, and what is still in the works?
RHOS: For database options, we currently offer MySQL, Postgresql, and MongoDB in OpenShift and are working with partners such as 10Gen, EnterpriseDB, and others to enhance these capabilities. For other areas you mentioned, we are integrating capabilities from our Red Hat JBoss Middleware business unit, working with partners such as Appcelerator in the mobile space and Jaspersoft in the BI space, among others.

PJ: What about ECM and MDM needs when it comes to cloud-to-cloud or cloud-to-on-premises integration?
RHOS: We are not offering specific capabilities in ECM and MDM areas today. Going forward we are working with our JBoss team on products such as their Red Hat JBoss Data Services platform for data integration, which we plan to integrate into OpenShift in the future.

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