Red Hat plays Switzerland in balkanized cloud world
APIs for everyone
If you listen to all of the major cloudy infrastructure players - and some of the minor ones too - they all sound like they have all the answers and you need only come to them to solve all your fluffy IT problems. But no one actually has a complete cloudy stack. Even Red Hat, which tried again today to give that impression while at the same time espousing its openness as it fleshed out some of the details of its Cloud Foundations stack.
In June, at the Red Hat Summit, the Linux juggernaut and virtualization and middleware player announced  a bundling and marketing name for its cloudy infrastructure wares, known as Cloud Foundations Edition One, and today, the company fleshed out how this foundation of products would move companies from creating simple infrastructure clouds that serve up virtual server slices to platform clouds that deliver application and data services abstracted one level up from the virtual infrastructure.
Red Hat also announced that it has submitted its set of cloudy infrastructure management APIs, known as Deltacloud, to the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF), a step toward making the Deltacloud APIs a standard and perhaps something that will allow for the interoperability among disparate and incompatible public and private clouds.
Just about everything that Red Hat sells is in the Cloud Foundation stack. This stack includes Red Hat Enterprise Linux as a base operating system for applications. The tosses in Enterprise MRG to manage, meter and control virtual servers and storage, Red Hat Network Satellite to configure, provision and deploy virtual servers and their applications on private and public clouds using Red Hat's KVM, Microsoft's Hyper-V, and VMware's ESX Server if need be. Other operating systems can be deployed on these virtual server slices, of course. The JBoss Operations Network manages and monitors applications running atop private or public clouds on JBoss, WebSphere, or .NET application servers.
Here's what this looks like conceptually:
The new word of choice for Red Hat is portability, as you can see, and the mantra at Red Hat is for all applications to be able to work on any cloud, regardless of whether it is public, private, or hybrid, and independently of hypervisor, operating system, middleware stack, and programming language. This is a lofty goal, which is what you expect from cloudy infrastructure I suppose.
And it is what chief information officers and business managers want, explained Paul Cormier, president of products and technology at Red Hat. "They want to be able to move their applications, on demand, with an SLA."
That's easy to say, but very hard to do, with virtualization for servers, storage, and networking more balkanized than Eastern Europe. But Red Hat, as the open source alternative to Microsoft and VMware, has to play the open card, playing neutral Switzerland, pitching interoperability, portability, and standards. Whether these standards actually get adopted or not is almost immaterial, so long as Red Hat gets credit for trying, allows other products to plug in and play all friendly like, and its own code works the best.
The portable computing part of the Cloud Foundations stack is based on the Cloud Engine, which is the Enterprise MRG grid and messaging middleware equipped with a forthcoming hypervisor, due with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, that Cormier says will have features to control the quality of service levels of VMs through allocation of CPU, memory, network, and disk.
This Cloud Engine includes an administrator portal for controlling users, groups, and permissions; storage management software; billing and accounting modules; resource management tools; and a job scheduler. It is wrapped lovingly in the Deltacloud APIs so other tools can plug into the Cloud Engine and so it can reach out to other tools and parts of a cloudy stack.
The Deltacloud APIs were announced  in September 2009, and it is an open source implementation of a RESTful Web service programming interface that can be used to manage the VMs and hypervisors in an infrastructure cloud. Earlier this year, Red Hat moved the Deltacloud APIs to the  Apache Incubator at the Apache Software Foundation. The APIs are necessary for VM portability across different clouds, however unlikely that may seem.
Bryan Che, manager of cloud computing products at Red Hat, said that the DMTF was chosen among many different possible standards bodies because Red Hat has a history with the organization. "We do not want Deltacloud to be under the control of any one vendor, including Red Hat," Che explained, which is why the project was moved to Apache and the API specs are being handed to DMTF. (Red Hat, by the way, is a member of the DMTF Cloud Management Work Group.)
The portability of applications in Cloud Foundation, as opposed to the portability of VMs, is accomplished through Red Hat Network Satellite, the provisioning and patching tool for RHEL, and another tool called Application Engine, which creates virtual appliances stuffed with operating systems and application software of assemblies of VMs that represent a multi-tiered application stack that can be puked out onto a cloud as a single unit and managed that way.
Moving up one level, you are talking about portable services, allowing you to migrate data and cope with application dependencies as applications move around clouds. Some of the services that are needed include message rerouting and high availability and failover for VMs.
Take one step up higher, and you are at the platform cloud layer, where Red Hat is putting JBoss middleware and exposing Java, Pojo, Seam, Spring, Ruby, GWT, and other languages used to create applications using JBoss Developer Studio to run applications atop JBoss middleware on a cloud based on Red hat Enterprise Virtualization (the commercial-grade KVM), Amazon's EC2 public cloud, or any other cloud that supports the Deltacloud APIs and interoperates with Cloud Foundations.
Red at understands that .NET runtimes and C# and other Microsoft languages have to be part of this mix, of course. But the idea is to pitch JBoss Developer Studio as the way to manage how these platform clouds are created and JBoss Operations Network is used to control the lifecycle of the applications, as they move from programmer to production to the delete button.
The platform cloud enhancements for Cloud Foundations Edition One were a bit sketchy, but an unnamed techie at Red Hat showed off the features that will come to the stack through a future release of JBoss Developer Studio and the JBoss application server. It's a bunch of pointing and clicking, so, uh, most of you system administrators are fired. Red Hat did not say when these future JBoss enhancements will be available, so it looks like you have more than 15 minutes to clean out your desks. Get some coffee. Work on your resume. ®