Red Hat pushing hard beyond Linux in the data center

Infrastructure, app development are target areas for open source stalwart Red Hat

At the recent Red Hat Summit in Boston, Executive Vice President Paul Cormier declared victory for open source. “Linux has won in the data center,” he proclaimed to an applauding crowd, acknowledging that along with Windows, Linux is one of two major operating systems in enterprise data centers today.

Now, however, there is an even bigger challenge: “Our job is to take open source all the way across the infrastructure and application development [stack],” Cormier said.

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Paul Cormier

Paul Cormier

In an interview after his keynote, Cormier said this year’s Summit was a sort of “coming out party” for the company’s products beyond Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). The flagship operating system product has been responsible for much of Red Hat’s success over the past decade, and Cormier says RHEL is now a foundation that customers can build upon.

In infrastructure, the company has the RHEL OpenStack Platform. For application development it has OpenShift, a platform as a service now on its third version. Red Hat rolled out extensive support for containers in RHEL and OpenShift too. Cormier says Red Hat is “well into that journey” of bringing open source products across the entire infrastructure stack.

But some observers believe it’s unrealistic for Red Hat to dominate the infrastructure and application development markets the way it has been able to in the OS market. “It’s going to be very different than Linux in the data center because a lot of things have changed, and some quite dramatically,” 451 Group Research Manager Jay Lyman said.

For one, it’s not open source vs. proprietary anymore. Sure, Cormier can say open source has won; but that doesn't mean proprietary has lost. Proprietary vendors are embracing open source now. “Microsoft loves Linux,” CEO Satya Nadella defiantly announced earlier this year, noting that 20% of virtual machines on the company’s Azure public cloud run the open source OS. “We will always have first-class support for Linux distros,” he added.

In Amazon Web Services – which Gartner says is the market-leading public cloud – customers have the choice to run a variety of open source products and code. “Customers are no longer limited to just Red Hat and some other providers if they want to use open source,” Lyman said.

For some Red Hat customers, the value of open source technologies is immeasurable. Credit scoring company FICO was mostly a VMware shop three years ago, but when it decided to embrace a scale-out private-cloud infrastructure, it was one of the first to adopt OpenShift and then OpenStack. Nick Gerasimatos, director of engineering and cloud services at FICO, says using open source has allowed the company to not only reduce software licensing costs, but perhaps more importantly, participate in the evolution of the OpenShift and OpenStack code to ensure it fits FICO’s needs.

“In the end, open source is going to win,” Gerasimatos believes. “People want access to open source, they want the ability to customize their deployments, to have a low-lever hardware abstraction.”

FICO proves that open source options are readily available at the infrastructure and application development layers of the stack. So then what was Red Hat’s Cormier really saying when he referred to the next challenge for open source being to win at those layers? He’s calling for the advancement of such products and wider use of them by enterprises. Perhaps more than anything, what Cormier was urging customers to do is not just embrace open source for these purposes, but to use Red Hat’s offerings.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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