Dell, Red Hat offer IT a refined PaaS strategy on OpenShift

Dell and Red Hat have formed a PaaS coalition based on OpenShift, but enterprise deployments of such technologies are still few and far between.

Dell and Red Hat will collaborate on a platform as a service based on OpenShift to offer IT an alternative to Cloud Foundry.

Prior to this platform as a service (PaaS) collaboration, Dell had already partnered with Red Hat to develop a private cloud based on OpenStack for enterprise customers. Red Hat also hitched its wagon to Docker containers as part of its PaaS strategy.  

No specific timeframe was given for the development of a PaaS layer between Dell and Red Hat, but it's expected to follow a similar timeline to their combined private cloud product, which became available this week after being introduced in December. Red Hat also gains an ally for its OpenShift PaaS products, which was challenged in the market by the formation of the Cloud Foundry Foundation last month. 

This is Dell getting their ducks in a row.

- Lauren Nelson, analyst with Forrester Research.

There's been a lot of buzz at Red Hat Summit this week around PaaS and an underlying technology that can enable it, Docker. Much of Red Hat's PaaS strategy is built around Docker's containers, including a version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Atomic Host, which is optimized to support containers in a lightweight fashion.

But learning about the technology doesn't necessarily translate into production deployments, according to Kyle Bassett, a consultant with Toronto-based consulting firm Archestration, which has enterprise clients evaluating OpenStack.

"Most of my customers are still dealing with operating systems and legacy apps and trying to make them cloudy or move them to the cloud and leverage self-service and automation," Bassett said. "I see Docker as a different kind of niche use case that is still getting realized."

Docker can package up not only applications but libraries and other components developers use to create mobile applications.

"Containers are [good] for developers because of standardization and portability," said Al Hilwa, analyst with IDC based in Framingham, Mass.

However, "people are still building traditional, multi-tiered application sets that aren't going to fall into that structure," according to Bassett.

Dell makes another private move -- this time with Red Hat's cloud

Dell and Red Hat also co-developed an infrastructure as a service offering based on Red Hat's distribution of OpenStack, generally available this week. The Dell Red Hat Cloud Solution is underpinned by the Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform.

Experts are cautiously optimistic this strategy will stick for Dell, which has had its share of false starts in cloud over the last few years.

"They've been all over the place," said Lauren Nelson, analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. "But they are starting to come forward with a little more consistency."

Dell doesn't want to be an infrastructure platform provider, but rather create the central point of management that sits between necessary cloud components. The cloud management and brokers layer is a booming segment of the market, Nelson said.

Dell's acquisition of Enstratius last year remains a central part of its strategy. It serves as the portal that will convert with a Red Hat OpenStack implementation.

"This is Dell getting their ducks in a row," Nelson said. "And how they are going to communicate the services they offer and where they extend to other services."

The challenge for Dell, Nelson said, is just how relevant its private cloud can be for the mid-market customer.

"That is the struggle, because cloud management portals are much more desirable for large enterprises," she said. "Dell might get to that point someday, and just be about improving the user interface, rather than connectivity. How does Dell articulate that?"

Others believe Dell's strategy shouldn't be co-dependent.

"The fact that Dell is reselling another private cloud technology seems a bit disappointing to those that hoped Dell would provide private cloud offerings of their own," said David S. Linthicum, senior vice president of Cloud Technology Partners, a cloud consulting firm in Boston.

Dell might attempt to sell more of its servers along with Red Hat's private cloud, Linthicum said.

"I'm not sure there will be much of a difference in purchasing OpenShift from Dell or Red Hat," he said. "However, given the current maturation of the market, this is perhaps [Dell's] best move, teaming up with an existing provider, and Red Hat is a pretty good choice."

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