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Red Hat corporate headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina (Photo: Red Hat)

Red Hat's OpenStack Ambitions Move it Beyond its Linux OS Core

Widely known for its Linux-based operating system, the company spent 2014 positioning itself as a major player in the OpenStack space

Red Hat's OpenStack focus continues to move the company beyond its popular distribution of the Linux operating system, and investors are starting to notice. The company’s stock was up around 25 percent last year on the heels of several moves expanding its position and its place in the cloud ecosystem.

Its bigger vision and strategy is the open hybrid cloud. Red Hat provides common management, common storage and middleware that enables building workloads across footprints in heterogeneous environments. It helps an enterprise with its hybrid strategy by helping put the right workloads in the right place. Open source is the way to make everything work together and enable true hybrid cloud.

"One of the things we’ve recognized and have been building for, is you want your infrastructure to support whatever workloads you have," Tim Yeaton, Red Hat senior vice president of infrastructure, said. "You want to be able to support them concurrently and have that commonality. We provide common management, with the ability to define workloads, provision to the right platforms, and manage them regardless. We’ve built our strategy with this in mind."

This message is resonating with enterprises, which are growing increasingly comfortable with open source, and with OpenStack in particular. Acceptance of open source and maturity of OpenStack put Red Hat is in good position. The company just started its fourth fiscal quarter, and, according to Yeaton, it has already exceeded aggressive goals for new customers and new proof-of-concept OpenStack deployments.

"If we were doing this as a proprietary company, it would be a path to lock-in," said Yeaton. "Every single thing we do is all open source."

Not a Fan of Proprietary OpenStack Middleware

He compared what's occurring in the cloud world with the Unix and Linux world. Unix would be akin to "open core," meaning only a small part of it was open, and vendors built proprietary pieces atop, while Linux is fully open source.

"If you look at how Unix and Linux played out ... Unix wasn’t leveraging the community effects, so the value-add was fractured. This didn’t happen with Linux, because it was community-based."

OpenStack is currently facing the same learning curve. The current trend is vendors adding proprietary middleware to OpenStack and calling it their own, treating OpenStack as "open core" in a sense. Yeaton believes this is the wrong way. "You can’t let OpenStack fracture like what happened with Unix," he said. "We’re strong advocates of the open approach; upstream is about community and innovation."

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White recently noted that both Red Hat’s core Linux business and its cloud incentives are doing well. Many companies are coming to Red Hat while switching from older Unix-based systems, he recently told Investor’s Business Daily. However, its position in next-generation data centers and in the cloud market in general is where the potential lies.

Red Hat has made several OpenStack-related moves this year, maintaining a leadership position in the ecosystem, and focusing on running and managing the big picture.

Gaining OpenStack Talent via Acquisitions

Red Hat made a pair of acquisitions that boost its cloud efforts last year. It acquired storage software company Inktank for $175 million in April and the French OpenStack cloud firm eNovance in June.

InkTank is a firm specializing in the Ceph open source software-defined storage system it developed. Ceph runs on commodity hardware and is a potential alternative to OpenStack’s Swift. Red Hat acquired Gluster in 2011, another open source cloud storage offering that runs on commodity hardware.

The acquisition of Inktank gave Red Hat top contributors to the OpenStack project. The eNovance deal deepened the talent pool further. eNovance helps service providers and enterprises build OpenStack clouds.

"In the case of eNovance, we acquired a team that was an expert in helping customers start on this journey," said Yeaton. "Many customers can get as far as saying, 'I can see the value, but how do I start?' eNovance increased our ability to start them on their OpenStack journey."

Playing Nice With Others

The message at Red Hat's March 2014 summit was cloud integration. The company can provide the unifying fabric and tools for heterogenous IT environments. To this end, it entered into several partnerships and completed multiple integrations in 2014.

It launched an integrated infrastructure solution for OpenStack with Cisco and a DevOps starter kit with Dell. The DevOps starter kit combines Red Hat’s OpenShift Enterprise Platform-as-a-Service, Dell’s PowerEdge R420 server, and partner services. The Cisco integration combines Cisco Unified Computing servers, Application Centric Infrastructure (Cisco's proprietary software defined network technology), and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

Red Hat is keeping up with the Big Data analytics space. It has partnered with enterprise Hadoop leaders Hortonworks and Cloudera for Hadoop on OpenStack.

The company also made RHEL available on several big clouds, including the Google Compute Platform. It introduced test drives on Amazon Web Services, so users could explore ready-made solutions built on Red Hat technologies. The company has made it easy to migrate subscriptions to Red Hat certified public clouds.

The company added a marketplace in support of its OpenShift enterprise Platform-as-a-Service, connecting the OpenShift partner ecosystem directly to OpenShift customers.

Keeping Abreast With Container Trends

Last year also saw Red Hat support Google’s Kubernetes project, an open source application container cluster management technology. Red Hat has been a long-time supporter of container technology, but last year's skyrocketing rise of Docker has brought the technology to the spotlight.

Red Hat launched several Linux container innovations in April, including OpenShift Origin community project GearD. GearD enables rapid application development, continuous integration, delivery, and deployment of application code to containerized application environments.

Open source containers help to separate infrastructure services from the application, allowing portability across not only different clouds, but also physical and virtual environments.

"We’re big advocates and have been building enablement in," said Yeaton. "Containers are strong for modernizing IT."

Correction: The image that originally accompanied this story has been replaced. It pictured and named Brian Stevens as Red Hat's CTO. Stevens left Red Hat last September to work as vice president of cloud platforms at Google. Data Center Knowledge regrets the error.

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