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Red Hat cloud program needs partners, punctuationJay Lyman, June 30, 2009 @ 6:36 pm ET
Red Hat announced a new cloud certification and partner program. I’ve been expecting to see and hear more from Red Hat on cloud computing given its prominence in Linux and open source and the prominence of Linux and open source in the cloud. However, I’m left asking a few questions.
First of all, where are all of the partners in this new partner program? Other than Red Hat, the only other vendor mentioned is Amazon. Okay, Amazon is a good one to have on the cloud announcement, and is a logical starting point for what will hopefully attract more partners. However, as Red Hat describes a ‘triangulation’ of forces — customers, ISVs and cloud providers — that are driving the climb to the cloud, I wonder why we don’t have representation from any other points of the triangle or any other cloud providers or ISVs. Upon seeing the announcement, I was expecting to see a long list of vendors ready to put RHEL and JBoss to work in the cloud, similar to what we’ve seen from Red Hat in its announcement of the Red Hat Exchange or the more recent Open Source Channel Alliance. In response, Red Hat says it is too early in cloud computing and in its partner program to name additional vendors, and to be fair, we agree the industry is still early in the process. Still, given the number of open source cloud computing vendors crowding to market, we might expect more than Amazon to kick things off.
I also wonder how much of Red Hat’s cloud program may be a reaction to the use of Ubuntu Linux in the construction, deployment and management of enterprise clouds, particularly internal clouds. RightScale, for example, recently switched from using, for its cloud management software, Red Hat clone CentOS to Ubuntu based on customer demand. Ubuntu distributor Canonical also includes a preview of its Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud in its latest release and the company is focused on leveraging its significant opportunity in cloud computing. With its leadership on the desktop and, with Ubuntu Netbook Remix, in netbooks, Canonical’s Ubuntu also stands to benefit from its client capabilities, which may be key to connecting with the cloud. For its part, Red Hat says it does not see Canonical and Ubuntu as competition here, but rather as a benefit in promoting the advantages of Linux and open source for enterprise cloud computing.
Of course Red Hat is competing with other Linux distributions beyond Ubuntu in the cloud. Novell’s SUSE Linux is the most direct, enterprise Linux competition, but consistent with our report, CAOS Eight-The Rise of Community Linux, and with statements from Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst, there is also competitive pressure from ‘community’ or unpaid Linux. This includes community versions from the leading Linux vendors — Fedora and OpenSUSE — as well as other non-commercial Linux distributions that are popular in enterprise datacenters and, from what we’re hearing, in cloud computing as well. This would include Red Hat community clone CentOS and Debian, upon which Ubuntu is based.
One final question from Red Hat’s cloud partner program announcement: where’s the open source (or at least, where’s the noise about open source)? I’ve been hearing from vendors and customers and saying to reporters and clients that open source software is popular and critical for cloud computing mainly for its flexibility and freedom from vendor lock-in. Customers that have been burned by the end-of-life of whole enterprise operating systems are more confident moving to Linux when they know their staff skills and connections will continue to be useful beyond the life or success of any particular vendor. In looking at Red Hat’s announcement and partner program, and following the vendor closely as I do, I believe it could do more to set open source and itself apart from others when it comes to cloud computing. I don’t doubt Red Hat’s dedication to open source and true openness, but I think it is time to take advantage of that dedication and its community and leave no doubt that Red Hat and its partners and Linux and open source will play a prominent role, if not the lead, in cloud computing.
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