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Red Hat's halfhearted attempt at cloud

Open source leader Red Hat unveiled new cloud offerings at the Red Hat Summit in Boston, but nothing flashed the potential to stand out in a crowded market.

Weekly cloud computing update

Red Hat announced the fruits of its cloud computing labor at the Red Hat Summit user conference in Boston this week. Frankly, it seemed a little out of sorts in the sunlight, like a Linux geek who's left the basement during normal business hours.

CloudForms is the company's Infrastructure as a Service, an outgrowth of the Deltacloud project, and then there's OpenShift, a PaaS stack whose tagline is "push git and go." There's also a JBoss thing called Enterprise Data Grid 6 that's being touted as a "cloud-ready, scalable distributed data cache."

It must be tough being Red Hat these days.

CloudForms is a beta signup; we know it incorporates the Deltacloud application programming interfaces (APIs), which means it includes the ability to provision on outside public cloud services, and it's touted as heavy on "application management," so we can assume there's a service catalog and templator of some kind (it's called Image Factory in the white paper).

It's using Condor and something called Katello, as well as "the messaging component of Red Hat Enterprise MRG" and a version of Gluster called, what else, "CloudFS" for blob storage. Identity management contains components from Red Hat Enterprise Identity, and so on. Basically, they've gathered enough bits and pieces from the sum total of RHEL to add up to the definable characteristics of a cloud infrastructure, when you use it with KVM or a "Red Hat Certified Cloud Provider."

A closer look at Red Hat's new cloud pieces
To be fair, RHEL does a lot of very complicated stuff, and picking out just the cloud-themed bits must have been a pain. OpenShift looks a bit more promising; the company claims that it's "free, leading-edge cloud services that enable developers to deploy applications." Sign up for a subscription, download the client-side bits and make an app. Push the code onto your new application thingie and away you go.

Does it work? Probably; somebody will give it a try fairly soon. But exactly how "free" is it? Can I run a business on it; what's going to happen if I try? What's going to happen when Russian spammers try? Chances are, if it takes off, Red Hat will clarify what it means to be "free" with extreme vigor, but for now they do seem to have the "online, self-serve, easy" part of cloud down.

Nobody knows why JBoss Enterprise Data Grid 6 is cloud, but it was on the list. It must be tough being Red Hat these days, probably a little bit like IBM: you've been at the front end of enterprise IT for a long time, doing things your own way, and all of a sudden some jerks with an online bookstore come along and roll out a smashing success based on open source and automation. They call it cloud computing, and now you're all alone at the party and can't figure out why everyone's so keen on that guy. You can do everything he does…well, you could've…

Anyway, it's nice that Red Hat recognizes the cloud trend. But how is this going to play out when cloud platforms like Eucalyptus and Abiquo, ones that have been around for years at this point, work out the kinks and build a user base at telecoms and other early cloud adopters? Where is Red Hat going to get an ecosystem of "Red Hat Certified Cloud Providers" when, between them, Rackspace Cloud and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have 300,000 users (based on Rackspace disclosures and an educated guess about AWS usage) and show no signs of slowing down?

OpenShift seems to have taken the lessons of Google App Engine, Engine Yard and Heroku to heart, but those platforms, again, have years of problem-solving, wrinkle-smoothing and outage-surviving under their belts. It's one thing to be an enterprise leader and say cloud is the future; it's another when the future is already here.

Carl Brooks is the Senior Technology Writer for Contact him at

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