Red Hat becomes cloud service provider

Red Hat officials never seem to stop talking about cloud computing, but until recently all the company's efforts were targeted at helping enterprises and service providers use Red Hat software to build and manage their own cloud networks.

Red Hat officials never seem to stop talking about cloud computing, but until recently all the company's efforts were targeted at helping enterprises and service providers use Red Hat software to build and manage their own cloud networks.

Red Hat changed that, to an extent, last November with the acquisition of Makara, which offers application deployment and hosting in the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) model on top of either Amazon EC2 or Rackspace.

RED HAT: Only Microsoft and Red Hat have all the pieces to build clouds

Led by former Makara CEO Isaac Roth, now being called the "PaaS Master" at Red Hat, the Makara team is busy working on the next generation of Red Hat's platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings. Given Red Hat's traditional approach, the company is likely to focus mostly on providing cloud-building software to enterprises and hosting companies.

But while the team is working on a new service that combines both Makara and Red Hat technology, Roth says the Makara hosted service is still in operation, and current customers will be moved over to the new platform.

"Makara is the first time Red Hat has their own public cloud service," Roth says.

Makara's hosted PaaS offering supports Java Enterprise Edition and has enterprise and life-cycle management features, Roth says. The service was launched just a few months before the Red Hat acquisition but a few thousand developers signed up, and NASA is using it for climate modeling. The service on top of Amazon EC2 or Rackspace is in a free developer preview with limited technical support.

Makara is based in Redwood City, Calif., and its team of 15 people, still in the same office building, has been tripled under Red Hat through new hiring and Red Hat shifting workers over.

"We're building on a significant Red Hat effort that was already underway, which we've added to," Roth says. "The offering that we're working on now is really nice."

The Red Hat Makara team is integrating pieces of JBoss and Red Hat Enterprise Linux into the service, and also taking advantage of the Deltacloud project, which lets developers use the same code to start instances on either an internal cloud, Amazon EC2 or Rackspace, protecting applications from API changes and incompatibilities.

But Red Hat is waiting until the Red Hat Summit in Boston May 3-6 to announce a more detailed product roadmap. When asked if Makara technology will be made available as packaged software, in addition to the hosted service, Roth just said, "Red Hat's got a bunch of cool stuff that we're announcing at the Summit."

At last year's Red Hat Summit, the company boasted several times that only it and Microsoft have all the software pieces to build cloud networks and move workloads from one cloud to another, including server virtualization, an operating system, orchestration and management tools, middleware, and application development frameworks.

The one piece missing for Red Hat was a public cloud service, which Microsoft has with Windows Azure, while Google has App Engine and VMware has its newly announced Cloud Foundry.

Red Hat and Microsoft are obviously competing against one another, but Roth suggests there is room for both.

"Azure is targeted at the Microsoft developer," he says. "We're serving different users. Red Hat is targeting the developer that builds on open source. Those don't really overlap that much. We'll probably coexist pretty well with Azure."

Because of the boost in staff numbers, Makara's offices "are getting kind of full," Roth says. Eventually Makara and other Red Hat teams will be consolidated into the same offices, but for the moment Roth and his group are working almost like a startup within the larger company, but with vastly greater resources than before.

Roth says Red Hat officials including CTO Brian Stevens told him to "run with PaaS, and make it the best thing we can possibly make for open source developers."

Follow Jon Brodkin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jbrodkin

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