Here's the current problem with using commoditized hardware to create a hybrid, in-house, cloud based system that can be used to achieve economies of scale: it's just too darned hard. From managing big data, to getting hypervisors to work properly on various pieces of proprietary hardware, to figuring out how to allow cloud-bursting of various time-critical applications, there are just too many issues to deal with for organizations to feel confident enough to take the reigns of the cloud-computing horse and place their bets on their IT staff being able to tame it. "It takes far too much expertise to get these products running" says Paul Cormier, Red Hat's President of Products and Technologies, about the mish-mash of cloud computing projects that are currently on the market today.
Linux vs. OpenStack
However, what's interesting is the fact that this was the same problem that unsupported, open source Linux faced a decade ago. Sure, you could get Linux installed easily on some of the more popular hardware platforms out there, and a talented Linux administrator could fix a misbehaving driver or two, but for the overwhelming number of organizations that weren't running on popular hardware platforms, or for organizations who just couldn't retain a talented Linux administrator for very long, the cost of running free Linux software was prohibitive. But Red Hat solved that problem. Today, software architects and IT managers can confidently engage in a Linux based strategy because RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) can be configured to run on just about any platform out there, and if there are problems, Red Hat customer support contracts provide a throat to choke.
Cloud computing consolidation
Red Hat has seen the writing on the cloud. The proliferation of vendors competing in this ethereal market won't last forever. Consolidation in the cloud computing space will happen soon, and Red Hat wants to be one of the five or six key players that remain. This year, at the 2013 Red Hat Summit, the company is showcasing a variety of new products that will become a central part of their new strategy, while at the same time promoting some of the stalwarts of their software portfolio that will continue to play a key role going forward. For scale-out public and private cloud storage, work will continue through Gluster, their late 2011 acquisition. OpenShift will be the cornerstone of Red Hat's cloud computing as a service offering, with OpenShift Enterprise providing open-source private cloud facilities. And of course, Red Hat will continue to back OpenStack, the successful cloud-computing platform empowering open-source Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
One of the key reasons RHEL was successful was the fact that it could be installed easily, on just about any piece of hardware. The new Red Hat vision is to do the same thing in the cloud computing space as they did in the Linux space, that is, provide a suite of cloud computing based products that just work, everywhere, in much the same way RHEL just worked when it was installed on proprietary iron from Sun, IBM or HP. "We want to bring cloud computing to the mainstream," says Cormier, with the mainstream being the quartet of business leaders, developers, IT operations and partners. Red Hat has done it before, and with their unique position as leaders in the virtualization, middleware and operating system space, there is no reason to believe that Red Hat won't be able to put the keys to cloud computing into the hands of the everyman who is looking to be part of the next-great-thing in the IT industry.