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IBM helps make Red Hat OpenStack Platform enterprise-friendly

By the end of the month, enterprises can get the Red Hat OpenStack Platform through the IBM Cloud. The offering is expected to make the software for private clouds easier to use.

OpenStack, an open source platform for private clouds, has yet to gain broad acceptance in enterprises smaller than the Fortune 100. So OpenStack provider Red Hat is turning to IBM for help in widening the technology's appeal.

Red Hat announced this week that IBM would offer its OpenStack software through the IBM public cloud. The hosted option for the Red Hat OpenStack Platform lets IBM handle the technical challenges that come with deploying and managing the technology.

Red Hat is not the only private cloud option in the IBM Cloud. Companies could also choose IBM's Bluemix platform or VMware technology. Therefore, the latest offering "is for people that want OpenStack in a hosted model, and, secondly, want a Red Hat flavor of OpenStack," said Gary Chen, an analyst at IDC.

The latest partnership makes IBM a Red Hat Certified Cloud and Service Provider. Under the agreement, IBM will offer its partner's Red Hat OpenStack Platform and Ceph Storage products. IBM plans to make the software available by the end of the month.

Red Hat Ceph is the vendor's distribution of the open source software by the same name. Ceph provides highly scalable object-, block- and file-based storage under a unified system.

Theoretically, a company using the Red Hat OpenStack Platform can connect to any other cloud environment built on software and APIs approved by the OpenStack Foundation -- the nonprofit group managing the development of the open source technology. In the real world, however, interoperability between OpenStack clouds is a "real issue," said John Fruehe, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy based in Austin, Texas.

"Even if you are running the exact same software on either side, things are not always 100% interoperable," he said.

OpenStack complexity

Companies are interested in OpenStack, but see the technology as "a work in progress," Chen said.

"What this announcement does is address some of the issues with private cloud and OpenStack," Chen said. "And the primary inhibitor is it's really hard to deploy."

Other than the Fortune 100, telcos, high-tech and academia have been the primary users of OpenStack. Many of those organizations have built a private cloud that provides infrastructure as a service.

Mainstream enterprises with fewer resources and less-ambitious plans for a private cloud want vendors, such as Red Hat and rival Mirantis, to wring the complexity out of OpenStack, according to IT pros. They also want to leverage as much of the technology they already have.

To address the latter point, Red Hat is letting customers deploy unused Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscriptions in the IBM Cloud. Enterprise Linux is Red Hat's version of the open source operating system for application servers.

The Red Hat-IBM deal is similar to the partnership virtualization vendor VMware announced last year with Amazon Web Services. Under the agreement, a VMware-AWS hybrid cloud provided unified networking, storage, CPU and security services. Also, VMware created a single set of tools for migrating workloads between a VMware-virtualized data center and the AWS cloud.

VMware, Red Hat, IBM and Amazon are competing for customers in a growing market. A survey of more than 6,100 enterprises in 31 countries found 44% preparing to increase private and public cloud spending over the next two years, according to IDC. More than 70% of heavy cloud users in the survey were pursuing a hybrid cloud strategy.

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