Red Hat pushes out OpenShift cloud platform

The open-source company has expanded into platform-as-a-service with OpenShift, designed to simplify the process of running and mounting applications on top of IT infrastructure

Red Hat has entered the platform-as-a-service field with OpenShift, a service designed to help open-source developers with the process of building, hosting and scaling applications.

OpenShift, announced and released in beta on Wednesday at the Red Hat Summit in Boston, is a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) product that automates many of the detailed, infrastructure administration elements of building a scalable web application.

A PaaS is a mount for web applications that automates the provisioning and administration of underlying infrastructure elements, so that the developer does not need to programme in application-specific scalability, failover and redundancy.

"We set out to build a platform as a service that gives developers the opportunity to deploy and scale applications without having to worry about scaling, configuration, networking and security," Issac Roth, Red Hat's platform-as-a-service master, said at the event. "[As a developer] I just want to deliver functionality."

The service is initially available as a beta in two versions — Express and Flex — from Red Hat's OpenShift microsite. A third version, Power, is due to launch later this year.

The basic version — Express — supports the PHP, Python and Ruby programming frameworks and runs on Red Hat's own hardware infrastructure. It should support Java in a number of weeks, Brian Stevens, Red Hat's chief technology officer, said in a keynote on Thursday. Code is mounted onto the PaaS by using the command line to git push code onto the OpenShift platform.

The more complex version — Flex — supports a broader range of frameworks including Java EE 6, has greater automation, support for NoSQL databases like MongoDB, and integrates application servers such as JBoss and Apache Tomcat. Flex is mounted on top of Amazon Web Services' Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

When the Power top-end version launches, it will offer greater scalability, failover and control than the other variants, according to Red Hat. The company was unable to give the release date for Power.

PaaS rivals

The PaaS space is a crowded one. Google and Microsoft already have established PaaS products with Google App Engine (GAE) and Windows Azure respectively, while Red Hat's hypervisor rival VMware introduced its own open-source PaaS, Cloud Foundry, in April.

Additionally, infrastructure-as-a-service clouds such as Amazon Web Services already have a variety of PaaS products built on top of them in the form of services like Heroku and Engine Yard.

"OpenShift is not at all a 'me-too' offering, it is an industry-leading offering," Roth told journalists at a conference announcing the service.

OpenShift is not at all a 'me-too' offering, it is an industry-leading offering.

– Isaac Roth, Red Hat

Red Hat believes two things set OpenShift apart from its competitors: the first is the integration of the JBoss middleware layer, which enables key enterprise functions such as transactions, business rules and messaging; the second is its broad support for a variety of development frameworks, such as Spring, Seam, Rails, Django and Java EE.

However, while OpenShift is more open and extensible than GAE and Azure, it is less open than VMware's Cloud Foundry, the entire code of which has been made available as open source on popular code repository GitHub.

"Some parts [of OpenShift] are open source, but other parts are preserved — like the user interface," Roth told ZDNet UK. "OpenShift is planning to be open eventually."

Roth would not give a timeline for the openness of the project, but did stress that it was made of some 60-plus open-source components, like Apache. Theoretically, this means an interested party could get the functionality of something very similar to OpenShift if they strung the code of the 60 components together and wrote a user-interface layer on top, Roth said.

Pricing has not yet been made available, so the beta services are free for the time being, according to Red Hat.

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