Dan's Take

Linux Distributors Are All Over the Cloud

Red Hat and SUSE fight to be King of the Hill for cloud services.

Two of the major Linux distributors, Red Hat Inc. and SUSE, appear to believe that becoming the dominant supplier of cloud services and technology will allow them to continue to battle mainframes, Windows and single-vendor Unix in both corporate and services provider datacenters. Both of these suppliers have made recent announcements based on cloud-related products and services. Let's take a look at what they're doing.

The Red Hat Cloud Strategy
Red Hat has made a number of announcements centering on the cloud. A July 2014 press release described its latest integration with OpenStack, Red Hat OpenStack Platform 5. It offered the most recent edition of OpenStack and enfolded it in its usual support policies in the hopes of making open source technology a safe and reliable choice for enterprises. It also tied in strongly with VMware Inc. infrastructure.

Today, Red Hat and Dell Inc. announced a starter pack for DevOps that includes Dell hardware and Red Hat OpenShift software. Here's a snippet from the Red Hat/Dell announcement:

Red Hat Inc., the world's leading provider of open source solutions, today announced that it has collaborated with Dell to create the Dell and Red Hat DevOps Solutions Starter Pack, a combination of OpenShift Enterprise by Red Hat, the Dell PowerEdge R420 server and partner services. This solution will be sold through certified Red Hat channel partners.

OpenShift is the Red Hat Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offering based on a number of open source tools, application development frameworks and databases. They include JBoss, Tomcat, PHP, Zend, Python, Ruby, Node.js, Vert.x, Perl, MongoDB, MySQL, PostgreSQL, JBoss Fuse, Jenkins, Switchyard and Cron.

The SUSE Cloud Strategy
As with Red Hat, SUSE launched its version of the "Ice House" edition of OpenStack a while ago -- August 2014, to be exact. What was different about the SUSE announcement was its attempt to offer a smorgasbord of open source technologies rather than just limiting it to a select few.

Many different database products were integrated into this package, as well as a who's who of virtual machine software products including KVM, Citrix Xen, Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vSphere. As with Red Hat, SUSE has announced partnerships with quite a number of providers of hardware, software and services.

Dan's Take: Déjà Vu All over Again
Here we go again. Customers cry for open technology; that is, they want technology that makes it easy to use products from multiple hardware and software suppliers interchangeably. They want an environment that makes it easy to move workloads from technology offered by one supplier to that offered by another. The suppliers, on the other hand, are looking for account control and how to keep customers pinned to their version of technology.

We've seen this battle before, many times. We saw it on PCs when MS-DOS was the platform. Hardware suppliers did their best to come up with hardware features that, once used, made it difficult to deploy products from another supplier.

We saw it again when the battle moved to "open systems" technology. That's Unix. In the end, we saw Unix appear in several flavors that were mostly compatible, but also slightly incompatible. We saw attempts from several groups to create standards that would give customers what they wanted. In the end, Unix can be seen as being about as proprietary as other OSes. Solaris, AIX, and OSF/1 all have different characteristics and hidden lock-ins for the unwary.

The battle appeared again when Linux appeared. At one point, IDC, the industry watcher, was tracking well more than 300 different distributions of Linux. Today, only five or six are still major players.

OpenStack specifically, and cloud computing in general, appear to be the next battlefield. Hardware, software and services providers have all selected platforms and are creatively finding ways to take open, community-built technology and shoehorn "special features" into their version that would act as a lock-in.

The Linux distributors and their ecosystems see this as the next opportunity to move enterprises further way from mainframes, Unix and Windows solutions. Those folks, by the way, see cloud computing as an opportunity for them to make headway against Linux.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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