As the dominant supplier of commercial Linux operating systems, a key player in middleware, and a wannabe with a pretty good shot at being a force in server virtualization, Red Hat would seem to be a shoo-in as a player in cloud computing. But for the moment, Amazon's EC2 sets the pace in commercial cloud computing, and that means being Amazon's friend is particularly important to companies like Red Hat that want to make money from clouds.
Not that Red Hat or any other software company has much of a chance of making money from Amazon's EC2 compute cloud and related S3 and EBS storage clouds, of course. Amazon has created its own software stack, which it is very secretive about but which uses the open source Xen hypervisor and heaven only knows what other open source and homegrown tools to manage the compute and storage slices.
But if you want to do cloud computing - and let's face it, some portion of computing will be done on private and public clouds - you have to engage with Amazon and other emerging cloud providers like IBM with its IBM Cloud and
Sun Microsystems Oracle with its Sun Cloud. Even if this does sound like a lot of marketing fluff on what can honestly be called computing.
The premier cloud provider certification and partner program that Red Hat is announcing today is an exclusive club, one that is designed to help Red Hat figure out how to get its hooks into the emerging cloud providers as much as ensuring that workloads that run on in-house Red Hat and JBoss infrastructure can flow out to EC2 and other clouds that will undoubtedly support Red Hat and JBoss instances. That Amazon is the first partner tapped by Red Hat is no surprise.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux was the first guest operating system available on the EC2 cloud when it was launched in August 2006. And given the fact that RHEL is the de facto standard for Linux in the corporate data center (but certainly is not the only Linux that is used among Web 2.0, telecom, and other service providers as part of their infrastructure), you can bet that IBM and Oracle will soon be part of this Red Hat cloud club soon, too. (Given that Oracle is annoyingly cloning RHEL itself, it will be amusing if Red Hat, which would be inclined to partner with Sun, disses Oracle after the acquisition closes on July 16 if Sun's shareholders approve.)
According to Mike Evans, vice president of corporate development at Red Hat, the cloud partner initiative is not going to seek out every hosting company, teleco, and service provider that is rebranding its infrastructure services as clouds just to be cool. Evans expects to have only three to five true cloud providers in the program by the end of the year, in fact. "It is too risky to bring too many of these out at once, says Evans.
One thing that the cloud partner program is really about, from the point of view of cloud providers such as Amazon, is getting Red Hat's endorsement for running RHEL and JBoss on their clouds. Customers want to know that it is safe to use clouds. Evans says that in the past three to four months, there has been a surge of interest in building internal clouds and using public clouds, and a lot of companies want to build something internally but also want to have compatibility with public clouds so they can "own the base and rent the spike", as they say in cloud lingo these days.
Every cloud provider wants to have an online store of applications that customers can download, provision, use, and pay for on a per-use basis, too, and that is what Red Hat is also launching a companion ISV cloud on-ramp program that will help the providers of the several thousand applications that are certified to run atop RHEL ensure that they will run on RHEL-compatible clouds like EC2 and to help them come up with pricing metrics that fit the utility-style of clouds and support infrastructure for supporting applications running atop clouds.
For some applications, few or no changes beyond pricing are necessary, says Evans, but for some older client/server apps, ISVs are going to be facing some issues. "Large ISVs with complex pricing models have more challenges moving to clouds than do ISVs with newer applications that don't have that baggage."
By the way, not all clouds are necessarily going to be based on the server virtualization approach espoused by Amazon's EC2. Evans says that there are a number of cloud providers and customers that are looking at using the "Condor" HPC gridding software inside Red Hat Enterprise MRG to create clouds for HPC workloads, and still others are abstracting at the middleware level and are really focusing on products like JBoss. ®