Beware of cloud ‘open-washing’ says Red Hat

Open source software company Red Hat Inc., believes that companies like VMware Inc., and Microsoft Corp., are skewing the definition of open cloud by claiming that their virtualization products are open when in fact they are closed.

Speaking at a round table conference in London this week, Scott Crenshaw, head of Red Hat’s Cloud Business Unit, said that several virtualization vendors have started to claim they are open as a marketing gimmick.

“I’ve noticed that VMware has been joining a lot of consortiums with the word ‘open’ in the title,” said Crenshaw. “VMware’s technical architecture reflects its business model, and that’s lock-in. The day they open source their core virtualization is the day that they can truly claim to be open.”

He added that VMware’s recent decision to change its licensing model and charge per virtual machine has forced many IT executives to wake up to the necessity for open cloud, and realise that they do not want to be controlled by a single vendor.

Crenshaw also criticised Microsoft’s approach of persuading customers to use one portion of its cloud technology and then “walking them into the complete stack”.

“Why would you ever lock yourself into a single vendor?” he said. “It doesn’t give you a rich choice of which public clouds to run on, and it means cutting yourself off from innovation, unless that vendor happens to endorse it.”

Red Hat advocates the creation of open hybrid clouds that allow customers to build out their resources at the pace they want to, and replace any part of the stack with an alternative piece from another vendor. The company’s Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) and OpenShirt platform-as-a-service (PaaS) products both adhere to this model.

Virtualization is increasingly becoming a main priority for Canadian businesses, accoring to CDW Canada, a technology solutions provider.

“Many businesses have indicated to us they plan to implement virtualization this year,” said Daniel Reio, director of marketing, CDW Canada. CDW recently released its Server Virtualization Preparedness Self-Assessment Tool, a self-administered questionaire designed to help companies determine if virtualization is right for their operations.

About 47 per cent of the Canadian businesses surveyed by the firm between December and January 31, last year said they are prepared to launch virtualization projects within their company. Of those companies, more than half said they intend to use virtualization to leverage existing resources and infrastructure, said Reio.

Boosting security and business continuity efforts is another reason why the companies considered virtualization, he said.


Crenshaw, of Red Hat, said that open hybrid clouds provide users with the elasticity and self-service that they need, while providing IT departments with enterprise-class governance tools. However, he didn’t take kindly to the suggestion that Red Hat is falling behind fellow Linux distributor Canonical in the enterprise sector.

“It may be selective data that they’ve put out, and it’s their prerogative to turn the numbers the way they want,” he said. “When it comes to the heavy lifting, building serious scale clouds, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on proprietary software and making it open source, they are not anywhere in the same ballpark as Red Hat.”

Red Hat this week became the first open source software company to generate a billion dollars in annual revenue. Revenue was $1.13 billion, up 25 per cent from the year earlier, and net income was $146.6 million, up from $107.3 million the year earlier.

“Red Hat’s success is a testament to the role it played in bringing Linux to the mainstream, and the continued shift towards open source in the enterprise,” said Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical, in response to the news.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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