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Red Hat cloud buoyed by Ansible buy, Microsoft partnership

The acquisition of automation platform Ansible and a partnership to run its services on Microsoft Azure highlight a busy month of bolstering for the Red Hat cloud strategy.

In recent weeks, Red Hat acquired one of the major IT automation platforms and partnered with a public cloud giant, as it tries to position itself as the go-to open source provider of hybrid cloud and DevOps.

Red Hat cloud moves since October include a partnership with Microsoft, the acquisition of automation provider Ansible and updates around containers, OpenStack and platform as a service. These moves show how Red Hat plans to compete for market share as more workloads move to cloud and distributed applications.

The Ansible acquisition and the deal to make services including Red Hat Enterprise Linux available on Microsoft Azure come at a good time for the open source stalwart, said Jay Lyman, research manager at 451 Research LLC, in New York.

"It's kind of the acquisition and partnership that scratched the right itch for Red Hat," Lyman said.

The Ansible deal is Red Hat placing its bets on where the industry and enterprise customers are going with faster, agile software release processes and management, Lyman said. It also fits with its push around emerging technologies for DevOps, as Red Hat was an early supporter of container technologies Docker and Kubernetes.

The Red Hat cloud already has DevOps tools with OpenShift and CloudForm, which is considered one of the four major open source automation platforms alongside Chef, Puppet and Salt. It plans to use Ansible to flesh out its hybrid cloud management portfolio.

Red Hat was the odd Linux vendor not already available on Azure, so with the significant growth of the platform it makes sense for Red Hat to run on the platform, Lyman said. It also makes sense for Microsoft because Red Hat is a growing option for its own customers.

"Red Hat is very interested in serving those mainstream enterprise environments," Lyman said. "This speaks a little to their enterprise maturity."

Red Hat cloud strategy: OpenStack, telcos and containers

In addition to the Ansible and Microsoft deals, Red Hat used the OpenStack Summit in Tokyo to address the growing concerns among telcos about OpenStack meeting their needs. Soon after, its container infrastructure service Atomic Enterprise Platform was put in free public preview and new lifecycle management tools were added to OpenShift, its platform as a service offering.

There's a big opportunity for Red Hat in OpenStack, with an increasing number of customers going from raw OpenStack to distributions like Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform, said Andrew Hillier, CTO and co-founder of Cirba Inc., an infrastructure control software provider vendor in Richmond Hill, Ontario that partners with Red Hat and other cloud vendors.

"They're in a good place," Hillier said. "Maybe a year or two ago people would always ask who is going to be the Red Hat of OpenStack and I would say Red Hat will probably be the Red Hat of OpenStack."

Red Hat is pushing into international markets with OpenStack private clouds. It's also working with telcos, such as Dualtec Cloud Builders in Brazil, to help build smaller public clouds targeted at specific countries and regions where the large U.S. providers have less of a presence.

That lack of a critical volume for the hyper-scale providers in certain markets, along with the data regulations that vary by nation, could provide openings for some of these providers that are becoming more of a presence in the OpenStack community, said Radhesh Balakrishnan, general manager of OpenStack at Red Hat.

"There is going to be opportunity for both," Balakrishnan said. "There is no way that every large player is going to meet every single requirement of every country and have bespoke implementations. That flies in the face of having a scale and efficiency that they bring in."

Challenges for Red Hat cloud remain in crowded open source world

Despite all the positive moves Red Hat made, the company also faces new challenges that weren't there several years ago, as more vendors try to replicate the success of selling support for free technology, Lyman said.

"The proprietary competition is no longer just the proprietary competition and the whole industry has gotten wise to open source software," Lyman said.

The proprietary competition is no longer just the proprietary competition and the whole industry has gotten wise to open source software.
Jay Lymanresearch manager, 451 Research LLC

People favor open source because of the flexibility and ability to avoid vendor lock-in, but a lack of infrastructure ownership creates limitations, particularly in public cloud, said Larry Carvalho, research manager at IDC, an analyst firm in Framingham, Mass. It's a positive that OpenShift can run anywhere, but concerns about vendor lock-in and portability haven't exactly hindered Amazon's ability to lure in customers.

"Even though there may [be], at the moment, people worried about this, there are still a lot of benefits of using Amazon," Carvalho said.

The value in cloud comes from agility, not cost, so the ease of use and integration of a platform like Amazon Web Services often makes it the more attractive option, he added.

"They still have a long way to go in saying they can compete with Amazon on platforms or DevOps just because they don't control all the individual pieces," Carvalho said.

Trevor Jones is a news writer with TechTarget's data center and virtualization media group. Contact him at [email protected].

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