open source software vendors tackle enterprise markets

Don’t be fooled by their casual appearance.

 Everyone from old-line IT vendors to scrappy start-ups converged on Boston for the Red Hat Summit the other week to spread the message that open source software is maturing – quickly.

Major vendors such as IBM and Intel promoted the use of open source and their own contributions to community-led development efforts. Well-known customers such as OfficeMax and Motorola trumpeted their use of open source software. The message from the open source software and services provider and its partners was that open-source technology is tackling every IT-related challenge.

The four-day event had a decidedly geeky flavor. Jogging suits, shorts and ponytails were as common as khakis and blazers among attendees. Booth giveaways included remote control helicopters, and a developer’s lounge on the show floor featured pillows and the requisite foosball game. The CTO of one vendor had on a pair of Google Glasses. While the “camera on” light was kind of creepy, the fact he was having trouble linking the gadget to his tablet (much less the Web) eased my privacy fears.

But rather than fighting corporate America, Red Hat and its partners were pitching to it, pushing the story that the breadth and depth of open source offerings is growing every day, with some of the biggest names in the industry behind it.

Red Hat announced two new offerings based on the OpenStack cloud platform designed to make it easier for commercial customers to move into the cloud. The Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform combines Red Hat’s Enterprise Linux with the OpenStack cloud platform to deliver a “scalable and secure foundation” for private or public clouds. Red Hat Cloud Infrastructure helps organizations create an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform for both traditional applications as well as emerging cloud-aware applications, with a single management platform for both.

Red Hat also announced Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization 3.2, aimed right at “enterprise users and global organizations” who want hybrid (mixed public and private) cloud environments. Among other new features, it allows virtual machine images to be moved among storage domains without disrupting service, as well as enhancements in storage, networking and power management.

Broadening the channels through which its software reaches the market, Red Hat also announced general availability of the Red Hat PaaS (Platform as a Service.) And with the OpenShift Online public cloud application development and hosting platform, Red Hat is hoping to move beyond its historic core of Java developers to enthusiasts of other language such as Ruby, Perl, PHP and Python, said Ashesh Badani, General Manager of Red Hat’s Cloud Business Unit and OpenShift PaaS.

IBM and HP were on the show floor with their heavy-duty server hardware, and Intel weighed in on the software side with its distribution of the Hadoop distributed computing platform, “Built from the silicon up to deliver balanced performance,” among other Hadoop related offerings.

The Next Big Thing?

Startup midokura hopes to make it easier to automate the provisioning of network services  such as distributed switching, server isolation, load balancing and access control lists with its MidoNet “overlay-based network virtualization.” Aimed at customers operating in an infrastructure as a service environment, it replaces hardware such as firewalls and routers with a layer of software (running on commodity hardware) that routes packets to their destinations.

According to Ben Cherian, Chief Strategy Officer at Midokura, the software would handle chores that can’t easily be delivered at the high-churn and scale that cloud environments require. It also eliminates single points of failure, he said, and can isolate tenants on a network to provide secure environments for more users, or customers, than is possible with virtual LANs.

Network switches are still required, he said, as they’re still the best way to quickly route packets around a network). So is a “border node” (running on commodity hardware) and Zookeeper and Cassandra data base clusters to store information about the network.

Azul Systems prevents “out of memory errors” that can stall Java Virtual Machines (JVMs), causing revenue-interrupting outages in response-time sensitive applications. Its “self-correcting” Zing JVM is unique, the company says, in its ability to elastically grow its application memory heap to eliminate such runtime errors.

Still Needed: Auditing, Management, Security

As always, the open source world astounds with the dynamism and sheer inventiveness of its worldwide, grass-roots development community. As even its strongest defenders noted at the show, open source still needs better management, especially of hybrid clouds and applications that “burst” into the public cloud to meet peak processing needs. Auditing and security, while not show-stoppers, are still also areas of concern open source vendors need to address, and that legacy vendors can exploit.

Author: Bob Scheier
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