Offer The Same Technology Everywhere?
I recently briefed an analyst on Red Hat CloudForms, a product for enterprises to build and manage hybrid clouds. This analyst pressed me on my assertion that we were targeting enterprise customers with CloudForms: were we also planning to sell CloudForms to cloud service providers? Many other vendors had both enterprise and service provider editions of their IaaS cloud products. Why wouldn’t Red Hat also do the same thing with CloudForms and not ignore the cloud service provider market?
I responded with several points to this analyst:
The Top Public Clouds Rely on Red Hat
First of all, Red Hat very much works with cloud service providers. In fact, the first public clouds were built on Red Hat, and all but one of the top clouds today rely on two things: x86 CPU processors from Intel and software written by Red Hat (the only exception being a certain cloud based out of Redmond). In fact, not only does Red Hat help these service providers build their clouds, but we also have a comprehensive Certified Cloud Provider program so that enterprises can run and support our platforms as well in these public clouds.
The Same Technologies Don’t Sell for Both Private Clouds and Public Clouds
I challenged this analyst to identify any cloud product that had achieved similar market success for both enterprises and public cloud providers. He couldn’t name one, because there aren’t any. Just because you slap an enterprise label on a product designed for service providers or a service provider label on a product designed for enterprises doesn’t mean that you are going to be able to sell the same technology to both audiences. This is because enterprise clouds and public clouds have significantly different needs. Yes, you can share technologies and sell to both targets. This is what Red Hat does. But, you can’t offer the same product to both markets.
Private Enterprise Clouds Have Different Problems Than Public Clouds
Private clouds for enterprises have different problems than public clouds do for service providers. Consider the challenge of managing applications in a cloud. One of the benefits of a cloud is that it provides self-service access to infrastructure and applications. This is great for developers and other end-users because it is much more efficient and agile; developers can self-provision their infrastructure in minutes rather than spend days or even months waiting on IT to provision this infrastructure for them. This is also great for IT because it provides a good mechanism for dealing with VM Sprawl.
However, self-service provisioning also presents a new challenge for enterprise IT. Today, most IT departments at enterprise companies have many different processes and tools in place for managing standard operating environments, compliance, security, updates, configuration, governance, and so on.
In the world of cloud, all these things break because self-service access takes one of the key tools IT uses today to manage all these capabilities—software provisioning—and puts it into the hands of developers, who care nothing about standard operating environments, compliance, security, updates, configuration, or governance. They just want rapid access to their development platforms.
So, one of the key challenges for enterprises in using a cloud, then, is how do you manage your applications in the cloud?
Service providers don’t have this problem because they aren’t running their own applications and managing IT processes in their cloud. Instead, they want to offer the best cloud service for enterprises so that enterprises will choose their particular cloud. Service providers want to attract enterprises to use their cloud, not manage their own applications in the cloud.
Red Hat Provides Different—But Related—Solutions For Both Enterprises and Service Providers
To address this problem of managing applications in the cloud, Red Hat provides two different offerings for enterprises and service providers. For enterprises, CloudForms integrates application lifecycle management for the cloud. For service providers, Red Hat offers its Certified Cloud Provider Program.
Consider the simple task of patching systems in the cloud. Say that an enterprise is using Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) on 1,000 systems in a hybrid cloud managed by CloudForms. And, say that 800 of these systems are running in the public cloud at Amazon, and 200 of these systems are running in a private cloud on top of VMWare. Now, let’s say that Red Hat has issued a critical security patch for RHEL. How will the enterprise make sure that all the appropriate RHEL systems get patched?
Because this enterprise has a cloud with self-service access, its IT department didn’t provision any of its RHEL systems. So, its IT department needs to:
- determine which running systems are using the version of RHEL that needs this security fix
- apply this security fix to the running systems, even though it didn’t provision these systems
- reconcile the fact that these systems are now running a different configuration than what the developers think they provisioned via self-service application blueprints
CloudForms provides self-service access integrated with application lifecycle management capabilities. For example, CloudForms knows how to identify, patch, and reconcile systems that were provisioned via self-service. So, CloudForms solves for this enterprise how it can provide and initiate patch management for applications in the cloud.
For Service Providers
Amazon wants to make sure that this example enterprise has as good an experience using and managing RHEL in Amazon’s cloud as it would in its own data centers. However, this enterprise updating 800 RHEL systems in Amazon’s cloud presents a challenge. Pushing patches to 800 systems in Amazon’s cloud:
- would eat up lots of bandwidth charges
- would be slow going across the public Internet
- could require punching a hole through the enterprise’s firewall
Red Hat works with cloud providers like Amazon through its Certified Cloud Provider Program (Amazon is a Premiere Red Hat Certified Cloud Provider) to solve this problem. In each of its data centers, Amazon is running a copy of Red Hat’s Update Infrastructure (RHUI). This means that when this enterprise initiates an update to its 800 RHEL systems at Amazon, the update request pulls the patch data locally from Amazon’s RHUI instances rather than across the Internet. This makes managing and updating RHEL at Amazon as efficient for this enterprise as in its own data centers.
So, Red Hat works with cloud providers like Amazon to ensure they can deliver an enterprise-class experience to customers using their clouds.
Two Opposite Sides of the Same Coin
Red Hat offers different—but complementary—products to enterprises and service providers. This is because they have different needs. Enterprises want to consume the best cloud experience; service providers want to deliver it. Sometimes this means that they will use the same technology, but often it means they will use different technologies.
So then, this is why we target CloudForms at enterprises but not service providers. Enterprises and service providers are like two different sides of the same coin: They both meet in the cloud but come at it from opposite directions.