Analyzing the PaaS Landscape – Red Hat OpenShift

Red Hat is one of the prominent platform companies. It should be credited for turning open source into a viable commercial business model. I have been following Red Hat from its initial days and Fedora is still my favorite Linux distribution. It officially made its entry into the middleware and application server market through the acquisition of JBoss. Interestingly, JBoss happens to be one of the first J2EE containers that I laid my hands on during the early 2000s. I still remember JBoss as one of the developer friendly J2EE App Servers with the support of Hot Deployment of EJBs. Of course, this came to almost all the application servers eventually.

Like any platform company worth its salt, Red Hat is keen on becoming a preferred PaaS player. Looking back, like most of the players, Red Hat’s Cloud strategy evolved with time. It first started with their Virtualization offering that is based on KVM followed by Red Hat MRG (pronounced Merge) that offered enterprise messaging, low latency real time processing and grid capabilities for High Performance Computing. It was a matter of time before Red Hat offered a full-blown IaaS stack. With CloudForms, Red Hat came out with the complete Private Cloud offering that competes with VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V. Red Hat has all the key components required for PaaS. KVM based Virtualization, Self Service and Private Cloud capabilities through CloudForms, and application services through JBoss. But Red Hat’s PaaS strategy is different.

Red Hat realized that to be successful in the PaaS segment, they got to offer a Polyglot PaaS. Red Hat’s original strength has always been the Java EE platform supported by JBoss. That’s when Red Hat has acquired Makara, a PaaS company that is known to support PHP and Python environments. This made complete business sense because Red Hat could enhance Makara by adding the true Java EE support and make it an enterprise class PaaS. In May 2011, Red Hat has officially announced the new branding called OpenShift that became a true enterprise PaaS offering from Red Hat.

Red Hat OpenShift

OpenShift comes in two flavors – 1) Express, and 2) Flex. OpenShift Express is the free developer offering that doesn’t have the GUI management support but supports a variety of languages including Java, Perl, PHP, Python and Ruby. It runs the applications in a shared environment and offers Command Line Interface (CLI) tools for managing the deployments. I am very impressed with the capabilities of OpenShift Express. It is complete through its support for GIT based deployments, choice of languages, choice of databases and ease of use. It only took me 10 minutes to deploy a LAMP application on OpenShift Express. It’s great for developers to get started for free. The best thing is that it doesn’t require credit card and request gets approved almost instantly.

OpenShift Flex runs on Amazon EC2 and requires the AWS credentials for deployments. The free trial offer gives access to Flex without AWS credentials free for 30 days. Flex is meant for enterprise and high availability applications through its support for JBoss Application Server, Apache Web Server, Apache Tomcat, MySQL, PHP, Zend Framework, Java, Memcached, Membase, Infinispan, MRG Messaging, and MongoDB. The architecture of OpenShift Flex is designed to be Cloud agnostic. That means Flex can technically run on multiple Public Cloud providers or even on Private Cloud to deploy a Private PaaS.

It is interesting to see the similarities between OpenShift and Cloud Foundry. But both on the IaaS and PaaS, Red Hat has chosen to tread a different path instead of supporting OpenStack and Cloud Foundry respectively. We need to wait and watch if this changes in the future.

Janakiram MSV, Chief Editor,

Janakiram MSV

Janakiram MSV

Janakiram MSV heads the Cloud Infrastructure Services at Aditi Technologies. He contributes to cloud related articles on A former employee of Microsoft and Amazon, Janakiram built a cloud consulting company that recently got acquired by Aditi Technologies. He is an analyst with GigaOM Research contributing to the Cloud related market research and analysis. He can be reached at