Let's play a game. Who do you think Red Hat's biggest enemy will be in a few years? Will it be Microsoft, Linux's traditional enemy? Could SUSE, the number two business Linux distributor, make a try for the top? Might Ubuntu's Canonical make its big break into corporate Linux? All good guesses, but Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst, is pretty sure that Red Hat's biggest competitor in 2016 will be VMware.
I know, I know, you're thinking, "VMware? VMware!? The king of virtualization? A company that doesn't even have an operating system or a middleware stack?" Why not Oracle? I mean Oracle makes no bones about wanting to take Red Hat on... and bury then.
Whitehurst, knows all that and has good reason for seeing VMware as Red Hat's real rival in the decade to come. At LinuxCon in Vancouver, British Columbia explained his reasoning to me. First, he sees the future as heading of high-end computing going to Platform as a service (PaaS). In the PaaS view of cloud computing, both the computing platform and software stack are abstracted. Current examples of the PaaS approach include Salesforce.com's Force.com, Google's App Engine, and Microsoft's Azure.
So how does Red Hat play in this? By offering companies not so much Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL); Red Hat's JBoss middleware and Linux, Apache, MySQL, Perl/PHP/Python stack by themselves but all of them on Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM)s on whatever cloud strikes your fancy. It's that KVM part, in particular that Whitehurst sees as powering Red Hat into business computing's future.
Red Hat, along with IBM, along with the Open Virtual Alliance (OVA), which supports KVM adoption in the enterprise, to make KVM the business virtualization program of choice. That puts them, as Whitehurst well knows, on a collision course with VMware, today's virtualization super-power.
Through KVM, Whitehurst said, "Red Hat will becomethe datacenter abstracter for x86." To enterprises, Red Hat will provide scalable commodity computing. With Red Hat KVM and RHEL, Whitehurst also observed that companies won't have to worry about extracting their value from the cloud. If, for example, you don't like your cloud provider, or you just want to move from say a private cloud to a public one, the Red Hat KVM-based PaaS will let you shift cloud providers easily.
That is not the case, according to Whitehurst, with companies that use VMware-based solutions. In the long run, by 2016, corporate users will be moving to Red Hat and other OVA partners from VMware solutions. Whitehurst believes
Whitehurst also sees VMware as being more of a pure Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), ala Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (AWS), play. IaaS' are fine, as far as they go, but Whitehurst believes that Red Hat's KVM-based solution simply offers more power and ease of use to corporate customers.
Whitehurst admits that Red Hat is later to the market with KVM than its rivals. But, he also believes that KVM will prove to be the best of breed virtualization technology and, with the help of IBM and others, it will place Red Hat in the drivers' seat for the twenty-teens virtualization and cloud technologies.
IBM is going to be more than happy to help Red Hat to achieve this goal. When I spoke to IBM's VP of Open Systems Development, Dan Frye in Vancouver and he told me that "The most important technology we're looking on today in Linux is KVM. We're telling all our new virtualization customers to use KVM. No, we're not going to end of life Xen or end VMware support--one size doesn't fit all--but for most users KVM will be the better solution."
What about Microsoft's Azure, Redmond's cloud solution, or Hyper-V, Windows' virtualization software? "We don't see them in the marketplace," replied Frye. But, as for Red Hat and KVM in specific, Frye said, "We're tied at the hip."
So, look out VMware, if you didn't know it before, you know it now. Red Hat and IBM, along with the rest of the OVA crew, are gunning for you. There will be interesting times ahead in the enterprise datacenter and cloud.