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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

RedHat Announces OpenShift Enterprise 2 - And The PaaS Wars Get Ever-Murkier

RedHat , the open source company that is both a Fortune 500 company itself and a supplier to many large enterprises is today announcing the general availability of OpenShift Enterprise, its private Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering. OpenShift Enterprise sits along RedHat’s OpenShift Online, a PaaS product designed for the public cloud and is focused on larger customers whose particular situations demand a PaaS built on their own infrastructure.
Private PaaS is on something of a roll – while at the start of PaaS usage the market was dominated by the public PaaS providers such as Heroku (now owned by CRM +0.14% ) and EngineYard (who has seen some strategic investment from Oracle ), in recent years attention has moved to the private PaaS market – and this market is well provided for – many of the vendors involved in the Cloud Foundry open source PaaS initiative deliver a private PaaS (disclosure, I’m an adviser to ActiveState , who offer a CloudFoundry-based private PaaS) including PivotalOne, the home of Cloud Foundry itself. At the same time RedHat pushed its OpenShift product while simultaneously being involved in the Solum initiaitve. A product that I’ve called half-baked and that exists purely as a concept, albeit one with some heavy hitting backers (RedHat and Rackspace among them). It’s a busy time, as I wrote recently:

It’s a strange time for PaaS in general. Pivotal One’s flavor of Cloud Foundry seems to be sucking up the vast majority of the mindshare leaving other Cloud Foundry vendors scratching their heads over how to differentiate. At the same time RedHat is trying to achieve some kind of breakout velocity for its own version of PaaS, OpenShift . Stalwarts Heroku (now owned by and EngineYard keep turning the PaaS wheel also. Add to that the fact that some of the OpenStack players have decided to create their own PaaS initiative, Solum, and you have for a confused and confusing market. Throw the monsters from Seattle, AWS and Microsoft MSFT -0.38% , on top of that and seemingly there is one vendor for every one of the half dozen companies in the world that have actually made a decision to buy PaaS.
The last line of that excerpt was borne from the frustration that myself and other who watch the space feel about the overt posturing on the part of the vendors. Indeed the post caused some significant tensions, ironically the most vocal to reply to my post being ActiveState, who were quick to refute my assertions in a post .

Overall commentators are generally growing a little tired of vendor posturing and, it has to be said, the tensions between James Watters, head of Cloud Foundry for Pivotal and Krish Subramanian, previously a collaborator of mine and now working on the vendor side as a Director of Strategy for OpenShift at RedHat. The war of words has gotten ridiculous but unfortunately in the absence of significant good examples of customer wins, words are all the vendors have. Well, words and Google GOOG -0.16% searches – a Google trend analysis of Cloud Foundry, OpenShift and Heroku show the truth of the matter – while Cloud Foundry and OpenShift are arguing about who does PaaS better, Heroku quietly goes on enjoying the majority of attention in the space. This is partly due to the Salesforce tie in, but also because it’s been going as a commercial product far longer than either Cloud Foundry or OpenShift. That said, there is something in the theory that vendors make up for a lack of customers with excess noise.

It has to be said that Google trend data is a proxy for what really counts, revenue figures. As Jack Clark commented on twitter:

@asheshbadani @krishnan @peakscale @benkepes * Google Trend data speaks loud and clear. How much money you make would be more useful… ; )
— Jack Clark (@mappingbabel) December 2, 2013

Still, in the absence of anything better, Google trend stats will have to do.
With all of this action in the PaaS space, how is RedHat positioning version 2 of OpenShift Enterprise to gain traction? Mainly by offering a full stack (both infrastructure and platform) service, a broad administration console, support for a plethora of programming languages and some new collaboration capabilities. RedHat is adamant that they’re seeing some good customer wins, indeed it keeps dragging out PayPal as an example. The company also promises that some more customer case studies will be forthcoming in the future. I put it to RedHat that by jumping on the bandwagon with 
 Solum, they’re sending a confusing message to customers, something of a “OpenShift might not be good enough so we’re hedging our bets” message. The company was adamant that its customers have different requirements for different workloads and that both a platform ties more deeply with infrastructure (like Solum) and a more abstracted offering (a la OpenShift) offer value to customers and that by supporting both ends of the spectrum, RedHat is giving customers the best of both worlds.

Subramanian was also quick to critique Pivotal’s own model saying that Pivotal take an open source PaaS (Cloud Foundry) and then layers it with proprietary technologies, RedHat, he says “takes a leadership position when it comes to open source as evidenced by its work with OpenStack, Docker and Solum”. He also commented on the widespread success Cloud Foundry is seeing amongst its ecosystem (IBM is one high-profile backer of the initiative) – “it’s important to contrast community endorsement from commercial success”.

Clearly there is a lot at stake here – while Cloud Foundry has certainly captured the Silicon Valley buzz, OpenShift has more general attention overall. Both vendors however pale in comparison to Heroku who has focused on execution rather than playing political games. The key thing for all vendors here to understand is that the market opportunity for private PaaS is massive – more than enough for all the vendors to build significant businesses from. They’d do themselves, their customers and prospects and the long-suffering punditry a favor by focusing on the opportunity, and not on sniping at each other.

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