Why Red Hat's OpenStack Support Must Be As Inclusive As Possible

by Ostatic Staff - May. 23, 2014

As we've covered, there have recently been several articles from publications including the Wall Street Journal and ReadWriteWeb stating that Red Hat won’t support customers who choose a rival OpenStack distribution. There is much controversy, surrounding the issue, and Mirantis' Boris Renski has an interesting post up about the issue. "We are currently in active talks with Red Hat to collaborate on supporting RHEL for customers who choose the Mirantis OpenStack distribution," he writes, as he forwards a number of points about how Red Hat's policies could be more inclusive.

Renski states:

"If you look at the recent OpenStack user survey, 90% of OpenStack deployments today are not running on RHEL, but rather use other flavors of Linux and KVM, such as Ubuntu or CentOS. That means that 90% of companies that have adopted OpenStack thus far will not be able to run supported instances of RHEL in their cloud."

"While Red Hat does not support customers who choose rival OpenStack distributions today, they did not explicitly shut the door on anyone (yet). I want to believe that the current situation is an unfortunate byproduct of Red Hat’s internal business process. Red Hat is an open source poster child of the client-server computing era. Today we move to the cloud era. In this new era it is important to provide compatibility and support for your operating system, running on a variety of virtualization technologies, and across different private and public clouds."

It's worth noting that Red Hat OS support is a function of the underlying virtualization platform. Renski notes the following:

"OpenStack is not a virtualization platform. It is an orchestration layer for a variety of virtualization technologies. You can use OpenStack to orchestrate VMware, Hyper-V, Xen and various flavors of KVM hypervisors."

"Red Hat currently does support Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), running on VMware vCenter, Hyper-V or Red Hat’s flavor of the KVM hypervisor. Red Hat does not support customers on RHEL who are running on KVM that ships with any competing Linux distribution such as those shipped by Oracle, Canonical, HP or SUSE."

Paul Cormier, Red Hat president for products and technologies, has officially rejected many of the claims surrounding these issues in a blog post. He notes this:

"To be clear, users are free to deploy Red Hat Enterprise Linux with any OpenStack offering, and there is no requirement to use our OpenStack technologies to get a Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscription. That’s what open source enables, and it’s not a new way of business for us. As a matter of fact, in traditional virtualization environments we certify performance of Red Hat Enterprise Linux on offerings from our largest competitors, Microsoft and VMware. They have engineering teams and a quality assurance process that we feel comfortable with. Together, we work with them to offer an enterprise-class experience for customers. We also work closely with major cloud providers like Amazon and Google to certify Red Hat Enterprise Linux. These relationships – and our massive network of certified partners – bring customers broad choice on the full spectrum from bare metal to cloud. That is the value of open source."

Just as Microsoft has had to wake up to the fact that its cloud and virtualization strategies must play fairly with Linux and many other platform technologies, Red Hat is going to have to keep its policies open. Red Hat is tying its future to cloud computing and the OpenStack platform, so it's to be expected that it would like to exert some control over which flavors of OpenStack users are putting on top of its Linux platform.

Nevertheless, we've made the point before that support will be the big differentiator as enterprises increasingly deploy OpenStack. And in Red Hat's case, it is going to have very open support policies if it wants to serve the big enterprises that it is wooing with its OpenStack strategy.