Ouch, Red Hat gets a slapping. Volkswagen chooses Mirantis for its OpenStack needs

Bring your popcorn because the soap opera continues.

openstack photo

To understand the context here readers need a bit of history. RedHat is, of course, a company that has been wildly successful commercializing open source software (in particular Linux). It is also a big part of the OpenStack open source cloud computing initiative. Mirantis is a company focused solely on helping companies move to OpenStack. These two parties were once upon a time best of friends with Red Hat making a significant investment early in Mirantis' life.

And then things soured, to the point where Red Hat started telling customers that it didn't support its own Linux distribution, RHEL, on Mirantis' flavor of OpenStack. There was lots of back and forth, and lots of minutiae around the move, but essentially it indicated, very publicly, that Red Hat and Mirantis' bromance was finished forever.

And since then, all eyes have been on the relative success of Red Hat and Mirantis in the OpenStack space. Which is why today's announcement that Volkswagen is building a private cloud and standardizing on Mirantis OpenStack across all of its individual brands (including Audi, VW, Porsche, Bentley and Skoda) is such big news.

Big news for a number of reasons. VW is, after all, a Red Hat shop (or historically has been, anyway). Big news because this is a fantastic proof point for OpenStack, in particular, heading into the OpenStack summit next month in Austin. And big news because, according to sources, Red Hat once again used the "we don't support RHEL on Mirantis" line with VW who reportedly ignored that thinly-veiled threat and went for Mirantis anyway. And finally, big news because VW's intention is to connect all of its cars to the internet within a couple of years. What that means is that the cloud, OpenStack and, ultimately, Mirantis, will power VW's connected and self-driving cars.

“As the automotive industry shifts to the service economy, Volkswagen is poised for agile software innovation. The team at Mirantis gives us a robust, hardened distribution, deep technical expertise, a commitment to the OpenStack community, and the ability to drive cloud transformation at Volkswagen. Mirantis OpenStack is the engine that lets Volkswagen’s developers build and deliver software faster,” commented Mario Müller, Volkswagen vice president of IT infrastructure.

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According to VW, the company followed a "comprehensive and rigorous selection process" that saw Mirantis score a 98 percent execution rate cross the 64 use cases that VW set up for it. Interestingly Mirantis was tested alongside other OpenStack distributions, although the company didn't detail what those other distros were.

Muller went into some more details about what VW is trying to achieve here and why the cloud in general, and OpenStack in particular, is the right choice for them. Per Muller:

"Digitization lets Volkswagen take advantage of emerging business models, but it requires a more agile IT. The company’s traditional infrastructure could not fully support this new business model due to its manual work, specialized hardware, and time-consuming hardware procurement process. With Mirantis OpenStack, Volkswagen is looking to build a new way to deliver applications at any scale, in a global single network, consistent across the brands.

And as to why the cloud, and the OpenStack cloud in particular, again from Muller:

"The era of digitalization presents new business models through IoT, big data, and faster application development. However, these business models create significant challenges for IT, doubling storage volume every two years and requiring real-time procurement of resources. Cloud computing is the best way to future-proof our IT for this new business reality. OpenStack is the largest open source project and backed by hundreds of technology vendors and tens of thousands of community contributors around the world. No single proprietary vendor, over time, will be able to keep up with the innovation cycles of OpenStack’s open source development model. We think this approach not only removes any vendor risk for VW, it also lets us take advantage of new developments in cloud computing faster as those advances will be quickly absorbed into OpenStack or created within OpenStack."

Never one to be brutally honest, Mirantis co-founder Boris Renski had this to say about the deal:

"Volkswagen evaluated several major OpenStack distribution vendors and it came down to Mirantis versus Red Hat at the end. Volkswagen brought Red Hat and Mirantis teams to Wolfsburg, Germany, where the companies demonstrated capabilities of their respective OpenStack distributions across 64 different use cases. Mirantis OpenStack emerged on top with an execution rate of 98 percent. Mirantis OpenStack will be used for Volkswagen group cloud across all 12 brands, spanning dozens of data centers and thousands of compute hosts."

It's a safe bet that Jonathan Bryce, the executive director of OpenStack and someone who has borne a massive load of criticism about the project, will have a grin from ear to ear upon the public release of this information. Not so for Red Hat which will no doubt be a little bruised by the news. I reached out to Red Hat for comment but have not yet received a response.

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