Cloud Computing

Red Hat seeks Swiss role in managing clouds

There has never been such a profusion of ways to deploy and manage IT and even within cloud computing alone the model is split in several different ways. Managing that complexity will be one of the biggest challenges for CIOs/CTOs over the next 10 years and one of the many companies seeking to provide that fabled “single pane of glass” overview is Red Hat.

The enterprise open-source software and services pioneer sees a big future for itself as the Switzerland of cloud brokerage so that when companies deploy, say, highly virtualised datacentres with private clouds together with applications such as Workday, or NetSuite in the public cloud, they’re not having to dip in and out of management siloes.  

Based on the three-year-old acquisition of ManageIQ, Red Hat’s CloudForms is the unit charged with bringing order where there is chaos. And what’s causing that chaos is the fact that cloud computing remains a relatively immature sector where different vendors and approaches will be used to achieve different goals.

“You don’t use a hammer to fix everything,” says Alessandro Perilli, Red Hat’s general manager of cloud management strategy. “You use different types of tools for different jobs. There are internal political fights, changes of management that influence the number of platforms, and sometimes there’s a very conscious decision to deploy the best possible platform for that workload.”

CloudForms 4.0 was released in December and Perilli thinks the release will be a watershed, thanks to broad coverage and a consistent look and feel across virtual servers, clouds and containers.

“This release is going to be massive in many different ways. We are extending management to PaaS and containers … for the first time there’s a level of management consistency so you have the same management experience across different platforms and workloads.”

Perilli, an Italian and former Gartner analyst, says CloudForms can now cover bare-metal servers, server virtualisation, IaaS, PaaS and both private and multiple public cloud providers. There’s also extended support for Microsoft’s Hyper-V for server virtualisation and for Microsoft Azure in public cloud. The ability to manage all this will clearly have lucrative potential, so how come the old systems management suite vendors like CA, IBM and HP aren’t making more of an aggressive play?

“I don’t see them being quick enough or committed enough to provide this consistency,” Perilli says, “but it’s not ‘for us to win they have to lose’. I’m seeing the market struggle a little bit because there are fewer cloud management providers. I don’t see anybody thinking in terms of being the cloud service broker.”

There’s also perhaps a fear of being locked in to a single, all-powerful provider and it’s that which might allow Red Hat and CloudForms to play (pun intended) the Swiss role, sitting atop the giant stacks of AWS, Azure, Google, IBM-SoftLayer and the smaller players. (Or perhaps you could say that Red Hat wants to be the top hat that sits on the head of all of these – your choice.)

“That’s why being Red Hat is a beautiful position,” Perilli says. “We don’t have any interest in the hardware side or the PaaS. We always have a multivendor approach and an unbiased view of the world when everyone is building a stack.”

Perilli says that the cloud management provider business has followed a very Gartner-esque “hype, down, hype” cycle of curves but he sees the market as a circa $17bn opportunity.

“There’s a lot of disillusionment because the very first attempts were incredibly complex to deploy… like, 12 pieces of software. CloudForms is an appliance – you can deploy in 20 minutes. We need to fight a preconception that it’s [necessarily] difficult.”

Of course Red Hat is not alone in spying money in brokering clouds and it would be a surprise indeed if the aforementioned bellwethers, Dell/EMC/VMware, OpenStack and a host of others don’t step up, but Perilli thinks that CIOs will look further out. He declines to say how big CloudForms is today in revenues but this is clearly an early-market manoeuvre. Anointing the winners will be years out, certainly. Whoever gets to sit at the peak of the hybrid cloud world though will not only command a great view but will also make large sums from IT departments that want to share that view.


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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