Red Hat: We CAN be IaaSed about OpenStack cloud

Reorg shows it's not just a Linux company. Again

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Red Hat's man was vague on what this would mean in terms of cross-pollination between products, as he was just days into the job. He did say, though: “As a group we will defining the integration and evolutionary paths that lets customers build workloads that move fluidly across architectures.”

Yeaton also pointed to his first tour of duty at Red Hat between 2005 and 2007 - he left to become CEO at open-source licence specialist Black Duck and has now joined Red Hat fresh from that firm.

Between 2005 and 2007, Yeaton was senior vice president of worldwide marketing and general manager of enterprise solutions. Yeaton said: “I spent time on product roadmap - that’s my passion.”

“Solutions” and enterprise selling is something Red Hat has been working on for RHEL and JBoss under CEO Jim Whitehurst, a former Delta Airlines chief operating officer, as it tries to become more like IBM.

There is a risk cloud could hurt the RHEL cash cow, though.

The logical conclusion of cloud is that by turning off your servers through consolidation or outsourcing, you no longer require operating systems.

That would suggest a threat to RHEL. It seams dangerous, meanwhile, to have moved the RHEL cash engine into a group wedded to an idea that’s still relatively new (cloud) and a philosophy (the open cloud) that’s an unproven theory.

It’s the closed clouds of Amazon, VMware and Salesforce that dominate, with Microsoft pushing hard its own particular brand of non-portability with Azure.

Yeaton insisted RHEL hasn’t been downgraded at Red Hat, rather RHEL will be critical in taking the cloud fight to VMware but particularly Microsoft.

“Linux is still the centrepiece of the company, it is core still to the business,” Yeaton said. “OpenStack will leverage RHEL.”

Rather, RHEL is critical to taking on Microsoft in the cloud.

Customers are still rolling out their own data centres but they are experimenting with cloud and bursting where needed.

The strategy is: sell them the operating system platform now, and cloud down the line once they are ready to move. The idea is the apps and infrastructure don’t need to be re-written and customers can re-use their existing Red Hat skills and infrastructure.

“Our goal is to become the open-source driver for end-to-end systems, from bare metal to public cloud,” Yeaton said.

“The one who comes closest to replicating that is Microsoft because the operating system is so elemental... We need to have a strong proposition in the operating system.”

“When you talk to those building cloud infrastructure behind the firewall, the thing they had to think about was how our middleware didn’t easily replicate in the public cloud. We want to make that much more seamless – to move workloads in and out to Amazon Web Services and private cloud infrastructure and have mission-critical support."

He reckons working with the new applications platform group, under senior vice president Craig Muzilla, formerly vice president of the now non-existent middleware business unit. Applications is responsible for developers working on JBoss and OpenShift - Red Hat's Platform as a Service (PaaS).

Of course, neither the open-cloud idea nor the fact Red Hat has re-organised around OpenStack are guaranteed to work just because Red Hat was successful in its first round of selling and supporting Linux.

Red Hat has tried to reposition itself before, to diversify out of being "just" a Linux company with the purchase of JBoss for its middleware in 2006. Relatively little came of this, and the lion's share of Red Hat's business still comes from Red Hat subscriptions with the company still considered first and foremost a Linux distro company rather than a diversified software operation along the lines of, say, an IBM.

The problem was Red Hat's foundations as a Linux distro company.

This time, Red Hat will be hoping Yeaton can bring something different: an outsider's experience. Yeaton chatted to El Reg about his time after Red Hat at Black Duck, which he joined in 2009.

Black Duck became part of the application development chain, helping enterprises manage the open-source modules that their devs were sucking in and using in mission-critical apps. Black Duck helps manage software licences and built up a practice specialising in licensing of open-source software.

What did Yeaton learn? How to think beyond the operating system, to take into account other elements of the software stack customers want.

Interestingly, it was Red Hat - an investor in Black Duck - who approached Yeaton to come back as infrastructure chief.

“The one area I learned a tonne about at Black Duck but didn’t have at Red Hat was how big companies think about leveraging open-source components, above where Red Hat has products - not just to leverage the ISV, but to enabled the large custom development teams in customers.

"I had great ISV enablement experience [at Red Hat] but not in helping customers consume open-source components at scale,” Yeaton said.

Ultimately, success depends on two factors: if the open-cloud theory works and if OpenStack stabilises. If it all works out, Red Hat could reinvent its way to another billion dollars. ®

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