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Red Hat bets on RHEL to sell its OpenStack elastic enterprise

Reputation versus the Amazonian hordes

By Gavin Clarke, 20 Apr 2016

Cloud killing on-premises kit for enterprise IT providers? Yes if you’re IBM, no if your name’s Red Hat. At least, according to Red Hat.

Wall Street’s money men are shocked – shocked, I tell you – to discover Amazon with AWS is now number two on a list of enterprises’ mega-critical IT suppliers.

IBM? Not so much. A firm with a decades-old reputation for reliably and for not getting fired for buying IBM counts for naught in the brash world of AWS.

IBM is number six on a list from JP Morgan. Microsoft is number one on that one.

The industry’s largest corporate Linux flinger isn’t on JP Morgan’s list but has almost as much to lose as IBM and Microsoft in the shift to public cloud. There its competition is rival Linuxes such as Ubuntu – claiming to run on most public clouds – and CentOS, which is free, or from enterprise server consolidation favourite VMware, still the number one provider of virtualization.

Red Hat, however, hopes to parlay the reputation it won by building an annual $2bn enterprise server Linux business to help it on cloud and in software-defined infrastructure.

Red Hat shot back on Tuesday by releasing Red Hat OpenStack Platform 8 and Red Hat Cloud Suite. The duo furthers not just Red Hat’s attempt to become the provider of enterprise private clouds but also its efforts at becoming a player in software-defined storage and networking.

Fresh releases

Platform 8 includes software that lets you upgrade OpenStack without taking it offline by packing in 64TB of free Ceph storage. Red Hat Open Stack is the version of OpenStack that Red Hat has toughened and that it supports for the enterprise. Platform 8 uses the Liberty release of OpenStack.

Rather than build some software-defined storage using Red Hat and OpenStack and then get the storage, you get a bundle of the stuff from Red Hat instead.

“Think of it as batteries included,” said Red Hat’s OpenStack general manager Radhesh Balakrishnan.

Cloud Suite, meanwhile, has been integrated with a swathe of existing Red Hat middleware to build what Red Hat calls “cloud native” apps.

Red Hat’s suite includes integration with, yes, CloudForms and Red Hat’s OpenStack for Enterprise but also Red Hat’s KVM-based Enterprise virtualization, Red Hat’s Satellite systems management for things like patch rollout, and Red Hat insights – an operations management service from Red Hat that queries a database of known potential issues to conduct fault analysis.

According to Red Hat, integration underpins management from a single vantage point of everything from container to virtual machine.

Success

Red Hat is the industry’s most successful distributor of Linux, a fact founded on its decision to focus early on servers and the enterprise. The firm has, along the way, bought judiciously in middleware, back when Java and open-source middleware and workflows were the new cool thing.

All that has helped push Red Hat in its last year to $2bn revenue in 2015.

However, as with its on-premises peers such as IBM – a key enabler of Red Hat’s server success – the growing preference for cloud has seen Red Hat reposition.

Red Hat has pushed open cloud, positioning itself as a broker between different public clouds, but customers have generally followed their feet to proprietary. The company is now working private cloud and software-defined networking and storage – the latter also being enabled by the elastic capabilities of OpenStack.

Those piling into OpenStack as an enabler of software defined infrastructure can be found in the telco market, with Hewlett-Packard, Juniper and others going open source and software-defined as a low-cost alternative to expensive and proprietary switches.

But doesn’t this moving of workloads onto OpenStack clouds rather disintermediate Red Hat’s core Linux server business?

No. Rather, Balakrishnan reckons Red Hat can trade on its reputation in the enterprise a provider of reliable, business-grade Linux for cloud and SDX.

“We have an established trust relationship based on the value we provide – it becomes an easier conversation because they're used to the RHEL value proposition and they see this is a journey from RHEL to the Red Hat OpenStack platform,” Balakrishnan said.

“That’s the biggest strength we could have.” ®

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