Red Hat floats into cloud computing with new Azure-like service

Red Hat Inc. is hyping its cloud computing strategy, including a new platform-as-a-service offering that could compete as an open source alternative to Microsoft Corp.’s Azure platform.

The PaaS offering is part of Red Hat’s recently announced Cloud Computing Foundations strategy, which it referred to as a portfolio that will promote interoperability and portability between enterprise applications and the cloud. The strategy is Red Hat’s attempt to provide the software, architecture and consulting services to IT shops to run hybrid, private and public clouds.

Red Hat’s PaaS service is based on JBoss Enterprise Middleware and the company’s cloud engine for the lifecycle management of applications. It aims to give enterprise developers, cloud service providers and software vendors the ability to build new apps or port over existing ones to a wide choice of private and public clouds.

This means that IT shops will be able to take the programming models they use across hybrid cloud services. The company said JBoss accommodates multiple development frameworks including, Ruby Rails, Java, and SpringSource.

Bryan Che, a manager of product management at Red Hat’s cloud computing team, said a key aspect of having a portable hybrid cloud where apps and resources can move around freely between on-premise and off-site clouds is to offer portable programming models.

“It’s not just enough to move your computing resources,” he said.

With its PaaS service and the rest of Red Hat’s portfolio, Che said, customers will be able to move the preferred programming models they use, along with the application itself and all of its dependencies.

To help drive home its pitch, the company also announced that film studio Dreamworks Animation has already built out one of the “largest private clouds in the world” using its cloud services.

The open source software firm said that with many companies offering “bits and pieces” of cloud solutions, Red Hat’s vision is to focus all of its assets on cloud computing. The end game for Red Hat is to make it as easy as possible for enterprises to move applications and data from one kind of cloud to another kind of cloud.

Gary Chen, a research manager covering enterprise virtualization software at research firm IDC Corp., said that because rarely anything in IT is an “all or nothing proposition,” the idea of hybrid clouds have become more attractive to many enterprises.

He said that portability will be the main industry challenge vendors will need to solve to truly dominate in the cloud services space. As for Red Hat’s strategy, Chen said the company looked to be “on the right track.”

Paul Cormier, executive vice-president and president of Red Hat’s products and technologies unit, said that Red Hat and Microsoft are the only two companies that can offer the entire stack necessary to run a hybrid cloud-enabled IT environment. He added that some virtualization vendors lack the operating system and a “credible middleware offering” to make this claim.

This comes just a few months after the company’s annual summer user conference, where Red Hat first announced the Cloud Computing Foundations plan and CEO Jim Whitehurst pointed to virtualization giant VMware Inc. as Red Hat’s “largest competitor.” The Red Hat chief said that his company and VMware are the only two players that have the components to really do cloud-based architectures.

Whitehurst added that cloud computing favours open source because proprietary models lead to vendor licensing, pricing, and lock-in concerns.

In addition to facilitating open developer choice through the platform service offering, Red Hat also announced the launch of – a new Web site for cloud application developers to interact about open standards and other cloud portability issues.

On the topic of open standards, Red Hat said it has submitted its API for the Apache DeltaCloud project to the Distributed Management Task Force. This is an effort to boost adoption for a standard that it says will help drive the development cloud standards throughout the tech industry.

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