Managing the mixed cloud: Red Hat's Open Hybrid Cloud

Red Hat is building tools to help enterprises make the transition to the cloud by concentrating on interoperability and centralized management.

Red Hat, the major supplier of open source software, is no longer just a Linux OS provider. It’s been busy building its Open Hybrid Cloud portfolio on top of RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) for its enterprise customers. Red Hat is a top contributor to OpenStack and has released OpenShift PaaS for on-premise use, along with its support prices.  

What do Red Hat’s enterprise customers tell them about cloud? Why are Red Hat building an Open Hybrid Cloud solution? What problems does Red Hat want to solve? These are some of the questions I had for Bryan Che, general manager of the Red Hat Cloud Business Unit.

Today's enterprise mix

“Traditionally IT has been focused on being a producer and a provider of internal services as people build up their applications, as they run their infrastructure. It’s been the responsibility of IT to deliver that," Che said. “When you take a look at the enterprise mix, they’re dealing with everything - physical servers, virtual servers, public clouds. They’ve got different data centers, different data sets, different applications, different technology stacks, applications that they need to continue running”.

The enterprise IT provider is under pressure to offer what public cloud providers can offer their customers, but the two are not the same. Enterprise IT is a heterogeneous environment, but public cloud services run in a homogenous environment. Established organizations don’t have the advantage of a fresh start like cloud providers.

Che acknowledged that big difference. “[They] had the luxury of being able to build out brand new data centers, populate them with servers, with identical hardware, identical software stacks. They didn’t have legacy existing mission-critical workloads to continue to run.”

The challenge of interoperability

As has often been said, while the cloud offers many potential benefits to enterprises, in theory, the actual transition to a new way of providing IT infrastructure and services is a difficult one to make. Not only must legacy applications be accounted for, but IT's business customers will expect the same levels of performance, security, and responsiveness as they get now.

Che said, “They need to now not only provide services but they often need to broker quite a number of different services from a number of different cloud providers.” It's a volatile mix that could end up with an enterprise trading one set of problems for another set: Che refers to this as "cloud sprawl."

Red Hat Open Hybrid Cloud

Red Hat believe the only way to build an enterprise cloud architecture is to deal with the heterogeneous environment. Red Hat start with a foundation of their existing enterprise components of OS, storage, middleware and virtualization, then add cloud components. They are building their portfolio to work with market leading products like VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Amazon Web Services. Red Hat’s management tools will work with both private and public clouds. This is what Red Hat believe will help their enterprise customers progress from traditional IT, through virtualized infrastructure, and finally to the cloud.

It’s open

Since Red Hat thinks the future is hybrid cloud (private and public) and wants to provide its customers with a comprehensive toolkit to manage a heterogeneous environment, it has a lot of ground to cover.

Red Hat uses OpenStack for its IaaS toolkit. The PaaS toolkit is called OpenShift. This isn’t the place for Microsoft .NET developers – it’s for open source coders who know Python, Jenkins, and Github.

The supporting applications are also all open. These are the biggest pieces.

  • Middleware - Red Hat picked up the open source JBoss application server some years ago and uses it to power enterprise middleware, such as ESB, portal and BPM.

  • RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) dominates the Enterprise Linux server world.

  • Red Hat Storage uses the Gluster file system. Red Hat are working on Apache Hadoop for the big data side.

  • RHEV (Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization) is a system for data center virtualization based on KVM.

Open source is nothing without communities, so Red Hat are doing for OpenStack what they did for their OS. Just as Red Hat’s Fedora is the fast-moving community distribution and RHEL is the stable enterprise distribution, RDO is OpenStack for the community and Red Hat OpenStack is for the enterprise.

It’s hybrid

Red Hat provides customers with ManageIQ tools to manage heterogenous clouds. Red Hat bought ManageIQ, a builder of cloud management and automation tools.

It’s cloud

Red Hat are integrating OpenStack with their other products and services such as the RHEL OS, CloudForms management tool, and training programs. Red Hat became a platinum partner in the OpenStack project (the company paid a lot of money to the project and pays a lot of developers to contribute to the project) to make sure the needs of its enterprise customers are met in future OpenStack releases.

Red Hat have been running the “OpenShift Online” PaaS cloud service for developers for the last couple of years. Now they are providing OpenShift Enterprise for organizations to run on-premise, in their private clouds.

What’s next?

It’s a huge spread of products, with OpenStack as a central component. Bryan Che knows this is the beginning of a long road for many organizations. “It’s going to be a journey for all these guys to be able to make the transition over towards cloud."