This blog comments on a variety of technology news, trends, and products and how they connect. I'm in Red Hat's cloud product strategy group in my day job although I cover a broader set of topics here. This is a personal blog; the opinions are mine alone.
Whether running in a pure public cloud environment or a hybrid approach that spans both public and on-premise resources, applications still depend on many of the attributes of an enterprise operating system to run reliably and securely. Red Hat's Chris Morgan discusses how the Red Hat Certified Cloud Provider Program makes this possible:
How both cloud providers and end user organizations benefit
How Cloud Access works
How consistency is provided across a hybrid environment and the benefits it brings
Gordon Haff: You're listening to the Cloudy Chat Podcast with Gordon Haff. Hi, everyone. This is Gordon Haff, cloud evangelist with Red Hat, and I'm sitting here with Chris Morgan, who's the senior product manager for Red Hat's cloud ecosystem. Welcome, Chris.
Chris Morgan: Thanks, Gordon.
Gordon: Let me start off with a pretty basic question. You work with a lot of public cloud providers, talked to lots of them, logged lots of frequent‑flier miles talking to them. Why, fundamentally, do people care about running Red Hat Enterprise Linux and other certified Red Hat products in the cloud?
Chris: If you're the provider, for them, they see it as a two‑horse race in the operating system world. You've got, obviously, Microsoft Windows and you've got Linux. And for Linux, it's Red Hat Enterprise Linux. They know that will bring more consumption to their cloud. Because fundamentally, if you're a provider and the way we've been seeing providers in the ecosystem, they're the next generation of OEMs, in many respects. Just like classically, we always had to certify Red Hat Enterprise Linux on the major hardware providers‑‑your Dells, your IBMs, your HPs‑‑we're having to do the same thing with these cloud providers, because, again, people expect things to just work when they go to these environments and want to run Red Hat Enterprise Linux and our other Red Hat products.
Gordon: It's really some of the same reasons that so many people run RHEL in an on‑premise environment. They also want to get those same attributes in a public cloud environment.
Chris: Absolutely. It's more than just the technology. You've got the business and operational models that need to go in place there as well. How do you get updates, for example? How do you manage entitlements and things of that nature? Those are technical problems that roll into business and operational problems that we've been working to address as part of the program, and actually have addressed in certain situations.
Gordon: I'll probably get into a little more detail in some of those technical aspects in a few minutes, but I'd like to stay on this business and consumption angle for right now. What, fundamentally, needs to happen in order to make RHEL consumable in the cloud from the point of view of the customer?
Chris: I'll answer your question by breaking the customer down as well. What we're seeing a lot of are, what I would consider your grassroots, or the next Facebook folks. These developers that don't have a lot of startup capital. They're trying to do the next thing. They go to the public clouds and are looking for a platform that they've heard of and can trust and start consuming. Then, we've also, on the other side of the spectrum, got our existing enterprise customers. What I think the former group is looking for is something that they can just get started with. I've been quoted as saying, internally here at Red Hat, I would like for RHEL in a cloud to be as easily consumed and picked up as CentOS. In other words, if you see Shadowman in the same list as the free alternatives, I would not want any kind of inhibitor there for you to just start using it. That would imply, it's automatically entitled, immediate access to updates, knowing you could get support on it if you needed to, which is something you couldn't get with the free versions.
Then, for the enterprise customers, well, a lot of them have a significant investment with us, and they like having that direct relationship with us and wanting to continue that whether they're running their application on‑premise or in a public cloud.
It's really those business models that we've had to help develop. For the latter, with the enterprise, we have a concept called Cloud Access, which is a bring‑your‑own‑subscription model. Today that works at Amazon, but we are actively rolling it out to other certified cloud providers, because it's been pretty high‑demand so far and so we want to keep expanding on that.
Gordon: Basically, moving their subscription. They buy their subscription once and then run it wherever they want to.
Chris: Absolutely. That goes back to my earlier comment about next‑generation OEMs. If you buy a subscription from Red Hat, well, you can run it on a Dell server, you can run it on an HP server, and you can run it on anything that's been certified. If you look at the public clouds as just an extension of that, for us, from a business standpoint, Cloud Access is the next logical step.
Gordon: It's maybe been implied in our conversation, but we have tended to be talking about what's happening on‑premise, what's happening in a public cloud? Maybe not that many folks do a true hybrid thing today, but really, the ultimate goal here is they've got their workload, they will develop it once, they will test it once, they will certify it once, and then they just want to be able to run it wherever it makes sense for them to do so, at a given point in time and at a given point in the application's life cycle, without having to redo everything.
Chris: Absolutely. You heard me mention splitting up the customers more. Just like you have, I know I've spoken to literally hundreds of customers, and it's both sides of that spectrum. The folks that are grassroots, that's less of a problem. They care about it, but they're doing some pure development in a public space, and so they've actually architected their applications that way. What I'm seeing with the enterprise customers is it's many times requiring a re‑architecture, and to your point, they only want to do that re‑architecture once and then just run it wherever they would like to. It absolutely is very fundamental to have that consistency. That's the key word to the program is consistency for not only the technologies underneath, but where they can get support, how they're actually going to pay for this, and have that across the board.
Gordon: One of the interesting things about RHEL is it has its foot in both those camps, so to speak. On one hand, it provides, at some level, this traditional certified enterprise‑grade operating system. But, then it also has, for example, all the multitenancy features like control groups, for example, security features, like SELinux, kernel based virtualization with KVM that lets people architect their applications with multiple types of multitenancy, which is what you need for these new style cloud apps.
Chris: Well, absolutely. It's very interesting that you bring the multitenancy. Another key attribute of the certified cloud provider program, again, it's not just a pure OEM. It's next generation OEMs so ensuring that there's multitenancy. Take for example Red Hat Enterprise Linux, if you go to a certified public cloud and you start up RHEL, this provider's already gone through a set of steps to ensure this is a clean image because it is a multitenant environment. The last thing you'd want to do is accidentally start up something, and you see someone else's data in there. Checking off a lot of those operational pieces as well is a big part of it. Red Hat, as you mentioned, having all those attributes already natively in the OS extends that accountability and expectation from the market for us.
Gordon: Just briefly, we've been talking a lot about the business relationships and this idea of providing service in a safe known environment. What are some of the things that we're doing technically with the public cloud providers in our certified cloud provider program?
Chris: Sure. I've mentioned certification. It's not unlike what we do with the hardware certification. From that standpoint, will RHEL run in that environment? Can you start it? Can you enable and disable SELinux just like you can on premise? Does it do all the drivers that are needed to work? One advantage that the public clouds have is a keyboard driver, it's kind of worthless. You don't need things like you would on premise. One of the bigger things we've done is public clouds, in particular, when it's not the cloud access model I mentioned, you bring your own subscription, but more addressing the grassroots, we have no direct or even indirect relationship with our consumer.
We really need to ensure the integrity of the subscription in those situations. The key technology we've added is all of the certified cloud providers are using essentially an in‑cloud update service where when you start these images, they're automatically entitled to where they can access this update service immediately, and get all the additional RHEL packages they may need and plus getting critical or rather other updates that they may need on the fly.
That was a really big step for our company because for the last 10 or so years, we've created a methodology where when you start RHEL, you have to register it with an RHN, Red Hat Network, or with an RHN satellite on premise before it's actually enabled. Now, we are on the same playing field, if you will, as CentOS where you start Red Hat Enterprise Linux, it's just ready to go.
There's nothing to keep you from using it. You don't have to worry about contacting sales. All of that stuff is handled on the back end. It really becomes a seamless environment from that perspective.
Gordon: It's still a certified operating system.
Chris: Absolutely, it's consistent and it's known. You can pick up and you can speak to the provider and say, "Hey, I'm doing this on Red Hat Enterprise Linux," and they'll absolutely be able to help you, and even if something got misrouted somehow and it ends up going directly to us and it's something that you got directly from the provider. Well, our guys are going to be trained, "Oh, yeah, we know about this cloud, and we can help you." All of these are pieces to the program.
Gordon: Well, great. Thanks, Chris. Anything else you'd like to share?
Chris: No, thank you for your time. I'm really excited about continuing to make this pervasive, especially the cloud access pieces, so please look in the coming months for some other things from Red Hat related to that.
Gordon: Well, thank you, Chris, and thank you, everyone.
I'm in the cloud product strategy group at Red Hat. Prior to Red Hat, I wrote hundreds of research notes, was frequently quoted in publications like The New York Times on a wide range of IT topics, and advised clients on product and marketing strategies. Earlier in my career, I was responsible for bringing a wide range of computer systems, from minicomputers to large UNIX servers, to market while at Data General. Among other hobbies, I do a lot of photography and enjoy the outdoors.