Red Hat: Look To Open Source For Public Cloud Development

The future of the cloud lies in open source, keeping Red Hat at the center of cloud development, company executives said at the recently-concluded Red Hat Partner Conference.

And because public cloud development is tied so closely to open source, other cloud technology providers such as Microsoft and VMware will find it difficult to take advantage of cloud opportunities, said Paul Cormier, president of products and technologies at Red Hat.

The IT industry's embrace of open source and Linux have led to both being the foundation on which clouds are being built, Cormier said.

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"The cloud today is now built on Linux and open source," Cormier said. "You wouldn't have the cloud today if Linux and open source had not been developed."

In fact, Cormier said, 80 percent of the industry's top public clouds are built on Linux. "Think about that," he said. "People just don't go out and build clouds on Windows. It doesn't work."

Cormier said businesses looking to move to the cloud have three options.

They can restart their IT infrastructure using a cloud, which he called a very expensive and impractical option. They can also build a cloud as a silo for a particular workload using proprietary technology from non-open competitors of Red Hat. Or, they can build an open hybrid cloud that takes advantage of a variety of open source technologies they may already be using, he said.

With open hybrid clouds, those businesses don't have to be stuck with a single cloud, Cormier said. "I see the day when you have one open cloud better for this application, one open cloud for that application," he said.

Red Hat, because of its years with enterprise-class Linux operating system development and its support of open source, is a key part of building open cloud infrastructures, Cormier said.

For instance, he said, Red Hat accounts for 11 percent to 12 percent of code contributions to open source software, making it the largest contributor to the open source movement.

And while that high level of contribution gives Red Hat a key role in building open source clouds, the fact remains that 88 percent to 89 percent of open source code comes from others in the IT industry, making collaboration and partnership key to successfully building open clouds, he said.

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Red Hat's Cormier later told CRN that a lot of proprietary infrastructure companies will have a real hard time moving to the cloud because of how much the cloud depends on open source.

"Look at VMware," he said. "I don't mean to bash them. But, they bought [software-defined networking developer] Nicira, which is built on open source KVM. How will they deploy it? Via ESX?"

Cormier said Red Hat's only real competition in building public clouds is Microsoft.

"It's really us and Microsoft who have all the pieces to build complete clouds," he said. "But Microsoft is proprietary. And while VMware has the management software, it doesn't have the infrastructure stack. No operating system, no middleware, and no real PaaS platform."

Cormier also noted that with VMware, applications still run on operating systems and not on a hypervisor. "In the end, VMware has to run apps on RHEL [Red Hat Enterprise Linux] and Windows. VMware has a hardware ecosystem like ours, but they don't have their own ISV or application ecosystem."

Bryan Che, senior director and general manager of Red Hat's Cloud Business Unit, said that all public clouds are built on open source technology except Microsoft's Azure.

"VMware is used for private clouds," Che said. "And if a cloud is built on VMware, there's still a lot of open source in it. Amazon, Google and IBM clouds are all built on open source."

Red Hat is a big supporter of the OpenStack open source infrastructure-as-a-service project, but Che said that OpenStack is by no means the only open source route to building open clouds.

"OpenStack gets a lot of attention as it is a center of gravity," he said. "But there's also Eucalyptus and CloudStack."

OpenStack's primary differentiator is its broad base of contributors and corporate sponsors, Che said.

"Even VMware is a member," he said. "It's the combination of that and the support of the open source community that gives it so much traction."

Red Hat is not planning to offer products as a part of the Eucalyptus or CloudStack clouds, Che said. "But they are committed to working with us," he said.

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Red Hat believes that no one will build a cloud using products from a single vendor, but will support a wide range of new and legacy products, Red Hat's Che said.

"We believe that companies will be using all these technologies, and do not want to be limited to any one vendor," Che said. "We won't lock customers into Red Hat. We believe that, if a customer wants to support other technologies, they should be free to do so."

Dean Bedwell, director of new business development and software solutions at OnX Enterprise Solutions, a Toronto, Ontario-based solution provider and services provider, said the fact that Red Hat has only developed 11 percent of the code being used for open source is important for partners.

"It gives you the sense that this is not all about one company," Bedwell said. "It's about collaboration. And, Red Hat is focused on driving growth with us."

One of the key definitions of success in the cloud is that, when the software is installed, no one knows it's there, said Mark Gonzalez, regional vice president of sales for ePlus Technology, a Herndon, Va.-based solution provider and Red Hat partner. And that is what the industry is seeing with Red Hat, Gonzalez said.

"The software just has to work," he said. "That's the biggest compliment you can give a software company. It just works. Just look at stock exchanges on the cloud. Reliability is important. If they go down, they get headlines and they lose millions and millions of dollars."

Red Hat has done well in its shift to the cloud, including making a number of wise acquisitions, said Eric Ng, vice president of sales at Scalar Decisions, a Toronto, Ontario-based solution provider and Red Hat partner.

"With a lot of our solutions today, customers are taking advantage of the cloud," Ng said. "And RHEL and RHEV [Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization] are a big part of it."