Can Red Hat Win Cloud War with VMware?
Analysis: Red Hat debuts OpenShift Origin, and reinvigorates war with VMware in the cloud. But can it win?
As VMware's Cloud Foundry effort continues to gain momentum toward creating an open-source platform as a service (PaaS) ecosystem, Red Hat this week re-invigorated its rival OpenShift alternative. But it remains to be seen if Red Hat's bid to rain on VMware's parade will succeed.
Both companies launched their respective projects last year but VMware appears to have gained the upper hand in lining up a broad mix of partners and enthusiasm for Cloud Foundry than Red Hat has with OpenShift. Red Hat revived OpenShift on Monday by releasing OpenShift Origin, the components of its OpenShift PaaS platform to the open source community. Developers can access the code from GitHub.
The move was expected but the announcement failed to generate much noise. When I talk to various software suppliers, service providers and others looking to migrate their platforms to the cloud, many speak of their interest, if not intent to support CloudFoundry. I have not encountered the same fervor for OpenShift.
"It hasn't had the kind of traction that they would like," said Forrester Research analyst James Staten. "This is true for frankly all of the cloud efforts that have come out of Red Hat. They have all been done in the open source community way but they haven't grabbed the community's attention."
For its part, it looks like Red Hat is trying to position OpenShift as a more open alternative to Cloud Foundry. While not mentioning its rival by name, Red Hat took a subtle dig at VMware's stewardship of Cloud Foundry.
"For developers who want to push and improve PaaS technology, [it's] a real, truly open and participatory open source project that you can pull, read, play with, and push back," wrote Mark Atwood, Red Hat's PaaS Evangelist, in a blog post. "There is a community that you can engage with. Your participation will be welcomed, your bug reports will be acknowledged, your bug fixes will be accepted, and your new code and pull requests will be honored. If you really want to be part of this, you will be a real member of the development process, not just if you work for Red Hat."
With the release of OpenShift Origin, VMware and Red Hat are set to butt heads, said RedMonk analyst Donnie Berkholz, adding that the market for PaaS is still burgeoning, meaning neither effort is central to the respective companies' revenues. But PaaS is expected to grow. Gartner predicts the market for PaaS this year will be $707 million, jumping to $1.8 billion in 2015.
"If one crushes the other, don't be surprised to see either of these companies jump ship," Berkholz said. "At the end of the day, Red Hat and VMware are going to support whatever makes them money on their core products and services."
While noting Cloud Foundry has a first-mover advantage, Red Hat has waged a new battle in a release of OpenShift Origin. The coming months will likely tell if one wins out over the other or both exist as legitimate PaaS options, though potentially setting up a scenario of fractured open-source PaaS options.
"OpenShift was operating at a serious disadvantage up until now, because Cloud Foundry's code has been open-source," Berkholz noted. "Now that OpenShift is truly open, it's got a new chance to build further momentum behind it on an equal footing. Second chances don't come often in life, so Red Hat needs to take advantage of this one -- and I fully expect it will."
Forrester's Staten said it's too early to tell how this will play out. The public PaaS market is still in its formative stages and even further out is private PaaS. Cloud Foundry has picked up some partners in the service provider community, such as Joyent and AppFog, which is creating links to Amazon Web Services. But it's not too late for Red Hat to create enthusiasm for OpenShift and it has a key asset in its JBoss middleware platform.
At this point, Staten has seen a stronger push by VMware to build Cloud Foundry than Red Hat toward OpenShift. "It's not clear there is the same strategic push or the same priority within the company," Staten said. "Red hat may try to refute that or point to some things that are different but we haven't seen that so far from them."
It's also interesting to note that both companies have reached out to the OpenStack infrastructure as a service (IaaS) open source initiative based on initial contributions by NASA and Rackspace. Having a rich set of compatible IaaS options would bolster both efforts and support for OpenStack could further solidify it as an alternative to Amazon Web Services.
Staten said popular PaaS providers such as CloudBees, Engine Yard and Heroku have an advantage by running atop of an infrastructure as a service cloud. "They have benefited from being on top of infrastructure as service because some parts of your applications may not be appropriate to run in a platform as a service but will be appropriate to run on an infrastructure as a service," he said. "That combination of infrastructure as a service plus platform as a service is a wining combination going forward."
To that end, Red Hat last month announced it has joined the 155-plus member OpenStack project, while Piston Cloud Computing Monday launched a new open source initiative aimed at letting Cloud Foundry to run on OpenStack. VMware said it will cooperate in enabling Piston to develop a "cloud provider interface" that integrates its OpenStack Piston Cloud OS with Cloud Foundry.
Piston's code would allow service providers and enterprises to deploy Cloud Foundry on top of OpenStack, making it easier to deploy the two as a complete solution, Staten pointed out, though he warned Piston hasn't announced a product, just a development effort. Yet if the project leads to a product, it would appeal to large enterprises, he said. "Piston is focused 100 percent on enterprises and highly secure environments only," he said. "Every one in the private cloud space wants to offer a higher level value and this could be a differentiator for Piston."
VMware detractors will certainly like to see OpenShift succeed. But will it? And what are the repercussions of two strong horses in the open-source PaaS race? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.