Can Red Hat beat Microsoft in the cloud?

The cloud strategy puts Red Hat on a collision course with Microsoft.

Red Hat announced a strategy for its cloud stack, now called Cloud Foundations Edition One.

It's about portability and interoperability. In other words it's about standards. In line with that, Red Hat has submitted its cloud platform as a potential standard for interoperability.

At the heart of the cloud movement was always this idea that you would abstract the complexity of operating systems through virtualization, thus it wouldn't matter on what specific piece of hardware your data and programs actually lived.

Of course that's not how computer rivalries work. There are multiple hypervisors, multiple routes to virtualization, multiple ways to manage clouds, and multiple cloud stacks.

When seen in comparison to the ideal of a fully interoperable environment open source has a distinct advantage. When you can see the code, you can link to it more easily than if you can't. (Try it at home. Wire up your computer with your eyes open, then do it with your eyes shut.)

The cloud strategy puts Red Hat on a collision course with Microsoft, whose Azure cloud says you should trust its portability, and trust its interoperability. Just to turn things up another notch, Red Hat said it would support its business software a full 10 years, as opposed to Microsoft's five.

Logically Red Hat's cloud strategy should work. Red Hat is seeking to be the center of the cloud world, while larger vendors swirl around it, and when all the rushing around is done the center is where you want to be.

But the real world is not the ideal plane. Red Hat marketing is indeed Switzerland, if you want to compare the Swiss army to that of, say, Russia. Yes it's neutral, but if it comes to a fight I'm betting on the bear. Can Red Hat succeed without being, say, bought by IBM?

That's the risk. It will take more than winning the Dreamworks account to assure a happy ending.

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