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Microsoft and Red Hat Collaborate in the Cloud

By Jack M. Germain
Nov 6, 2015 10:40 AM PT

Microsoft and Red Hat on Wednesday announced a deal that bridges their cloud technologies, which have been separated by the competing Windows and Linux platforms.

The partnership lets customers migrate their data to either Microsoft Azure or Red Hat Enterprise Linux. It also integrates features in both cloud systems so customers can use them interchangeably.

In addition, Microsoft is offering REHL as the preferred Linux choice on Microsoft Azure. In return, Microsoft Azure will become a Red Hat Certified Cloud and Service Provider, according to the companies.

Red Hat Cloud Access subscribers can, for example, run their own virtual machine images in Microsoft Azure, and Azure customers can run their data on Red Hat's application platform. The Red Hat applications include Red Hat JBoss Enterprise Application Platform, JBoss Web Server, Gluster Storage and OpenShift, the company's Platform as a Service offering.

Red Hat and Microsoft will work together in addressing common enterprise, independent software vendor and developer needs that until now have kept a wall between integrating data over both cloud architectures. This will let customers deploy and manage applications on Red Hat software across private and public clouds, according to the companies.

"This is one more confirmation -- if any more were needed -- that Linux is a permanent and important part of the enterprise IT armamentarium," said Andrew Atkinson, senior director of product marketing at Cloud Cruiser.

"Ultimately, it will mean greater demand for Linux skills in the enterprise, part and parcel of the expanding ecosystem," he told LinuxInsider.

Plan Planks

A key agreement in the partnership is the integration of Red Hat's On-Demand RHEL images in the Azure Marketplace. Red Hat will provide technical expertise to support the pay-as-you-go service, the company said.

That integration brings mutual enterprise-grade support to connect the two hybrid cloud environments. Giving customers the choice of cross-platform, cross-company support between Microsoft and Red Hat offerings is unprecedented in the public cloud, according to the companies.

This integrated support by Red Hat and Microsoft teams at the same location will give their customers simple and seamless performance at cloud speed, they said. The deal also involves collaboration on Microsoft's .NET services for a new generation of application development capabilities.

It provides access to Windows .NET technologies across Red Hat offerings. That integrated support begins in the next few weeks.

The partnership also brings unified workload management across hybrid cloud deployments. This includes integration between Red Hat CloudForms and Microsoft Azure and System Center Virtual Machine Manager to manage Red Hat Enterprise Linux on both Hyper-V and Microsoft Azure. That support should be ready in the next few months.

Win-Win Proposition

"Extending the work we have done with hypervisor and guest operating system cross-certification, we are now able to better integrate frameworks and technologies such as .NET and Red Hat CloudForms to provide a unified experience across physical, virtual, cloud and hybrid cloud deployments," said Mike Ferris, senior director for business architecture at Red Hat.

Customers and partners will benefit from the increased choice and alignment between the two enterprise platform companies both on-premises and in the Azure cloud, backed by the assurance of support and services of both companies, he told LinuxInsider. The integration efforts will provide users with several essential freedoms.

Customers will be able to move workloads between their data centers and the cloud. They can integrate cloud workloads with on-premises data. They also can ensure that applications can take advantage of the best deployment architecture and technology platforms available in the market, according to Ferris.

Redefining Terms

The growth of cloud computing is shifting from a discussion about why to use the cloud to how to better use it, noted Scott Guthrie, executive vice president for Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise Group. " 'How cloud' comes down to customers embracing the cloud on their terms" and poses two primary challenges.

One is the challenge of bringing together existing on-premises investments with a cloud environment for greater speed, scale and cost benefits. Hybrid cloud has emerged as a way to solve this, he said.

The other is the need for flexibility and choice in customers' cloud investments across platforms, tools and languages. The challenge is ensuring that they can use what they already know to take full advantage of what the cloud has to offer, Guthrie said.

More than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies use Microsoft's cloud, so teaming up with "the leader in enterprise Linux allows even more businesses to move to the cloud on their terms," he added.

"This partnership is certainly an attempt to expand the range of potential answers to that 'how cloud' question," said Cloud Cruiser's Atkinson.

The partnership will expand customers' range of choices. Its impact on partners will vary.

"But it will be net positive for many or even most as the size of the ecosystem increases," said Atkinson.

Growth Factor

The partnership will open up new hybrid scenarios and solutions that partners can develop. The companies also expect other ISVs that want to take advantage of the combined solution will emerge, according to Microsoft spokesperson Stacey Andrews.

For Microsoft, the deal is an attempt to leverage the strength both companies have in enterprise IT to ensure that they get a significant piece of the growing hybrid cloud market, noted Atkinson. This deal is a doubling down on a top-down, IT-led strategy that contrasts with Amazon's bottom-up approach.

"The focus on integrated, enterprise-grade support spanning hybrid environments is telling. Microsoft is focusing on driving Azure consumption with industrial-strength, enterprise-grade capabilities," he said.

For Red Hat, the deal strengthens its Linux hand by expanding the range of environments in which Red Hat solutions can natively run. It puts Red Hat in a better position "for a future enterprise platform that spans environments ranging from bare metal in the data center to multiple public and private clouds," Atkinson said.

"We anticipate potential acceleration in consumption of and development activity by the Linux community at large" as a result of the partnership, said Red Hat's Ferris.

No Cats 'n Dogs Deal

In historical terms, the partnership between Microsoft and Red Hat is a monumental announcement. But given the new Microsoft, an announcement like this was only a matter of time, according to Al Hilwa, program director for software development research at IDC.

"The new Microsoft has taken bold new steps and has been on a path to partner with its fiercest rivals of past years. The company has embraced Linux in its Azure cloud and is doing more in open source than ever," he told LinuxInsider.

Still, the vast number of common customers makes this is a win for both companies. It creates new opportunities for growth in parts of enterprise IT that typically have been apart, Hilwa said.

Strategically, that is what's required for players at scale in the cloud platform wars. It represents an important move for Microsoft's initiative to compete at the top tier of the cloud wars, he added.

"IDC believes that a significant portion of the two companies' customers use both their technologies strategically. This partnership will allow their joint customers to use a wide cross-section of both companies' technologies in a more integrated fashion and, for the first time, with the blessing and deep support from both vendors," Hilwa said.

"In many ways," he concluded, "this partnership underlines the high level of maturity the open source model business model has achieved today and the broad acceptance and use it has received in the enterprise."


Jack M. Germain has been writing about computer technology since the early days of the Apple II and the PC. He still has his original IBM PC-Jr and a few other legacy DOS and Windows boxes. He left shareware programs behind for the open source world of the Linux desktop. He runs several versions of Windows and Linux OSes and often cannot decide whether to grab his tablet, netbook or Android smartphone instead of using his desktop or laptop gear. You can connect with him on Google+.


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