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Red Hat rallies with the promise of an open source cloud PaaS

Open source computing is based on the concept that sharing is a good thing — a virtue we were all supposed to learn in kindergarten. This week at the World Trade Center in Boston, Red Hat shared its vision of an open source cloud ecosphere based on transparency and collaboration, the new business imperatives.

It’s a vision endorsed by numerous businesses including Nissan, which plans to deliver cloud services to automobiles in the future. The Japanese car manufacturer expects to sell 10% of its vehicles with “AV telematics” connected to a data center 24/7 for service, according to Celso Guiotoko, vice president and CIO at Nissan. Since the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the company has strengthened its plan to standardize on open source technologies and applications as a platform for disaster recovery, he said.

Just how much money can a business save by going with open source solutions? Red Hat’s website has a TCO calculator, but just by way of a benchmark, company officials estimate that an implementation of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization costs about one-seventh what a VMware installation costs. The government of Brazil saved 80% by moving to Red Hat, the officials said.

Open source vendors offer software for free but charge for support — a licensing model that requires customers to license support for all servers in order to receive it for any one of them, according to John Giordano, a system administrator from Harris Corp. in Melbourne, Fla.

The world is moving fast toward transparency and collaboration. Politically and professionally, innovation happens when people come together. The U.S. government, a huge open source user, is responding to Federal CIO Vivek Kundra’s cloud-first directive by consolidating data centers and looking for open source cloud solutions.

Red Hat announced two products — the CloudForms Infrastructure as a Service and the OpenShift Platform as a Service (PaaS). CloudForms repackages and enhances Red Hat’s technologies in concert with partners who offer open source application development, identity management, database, performance monitoring and other technologies, in order to provide enterprise customers with the tools to build an open source private cloud.

“Anyone with a private cloud today has had to do a lot of heavy lifting,” said Gordon Haff, cloud evangelist at Red Hat. “It’s our goal with CloudForms that you won’t have to do your own heavy lifting as you might have had to years ago.”

The OpenShift PaaS supports several development frameworks for Java, Python, PHP and Ruby; and is the first PaaS to plan support for Java EE 6. “It’s not a me-too offering but an industry-leading platform on day 1,” a Red Hat official said in a press conference. However, the PaaS is currently in developer preview, and at this time does not come with a service level agreement — a potential deal-breaker for enterprise developers.

Attendees at my lunch table at the conference were nonplussed about the “new” cloud focus, calling it a new name for virtualization. The two customers who spoke on a cloud panel — one from a health care company, the other from a small systems integrator — have built private clouds using open source technologies, but haven’t tried CloudForms or OpenShift. Judging by a show of hands, few folks in the audience have moved beyond open source virtualization to private cloud development (which entails automated provisioning of IT services and potentially, metered charges for those services).

One questioner at the final keynote drew chuckles by asking whether he, as a system administrator, would become obsolete by adopting the new cloud strategy — a question that also plagues system administrators of companies that use proprietary cloud technologies.

What are the risks to enterprises deploying open source technologies? Email me at

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