Can Red Hat do for containers and microservices what it's done for Linux?
That's the latest plan put forward by the folks in Raleigh, as Red Hat unveils three new products -- two of them software, one a partner program -- intended to put the company at the center of all matters container-related.
Red Hat describes this move as "the first certified, end-to-end ecosystem program for Linux containers based on Docker." The "end-to-end ecosystem" part isn't hard to parse, as it refers to the various tools and technologies Red Hat has assembled around running containers.
"Certified," on the other hand, is a relatively new wrinkle. It comes off as one of the ways Red Hat -- and, ostensibly, others in the container game -- will be able to monetize its involvement with containers in much the same way it has monetized its Linux involvement.
The first item in the lineup, Red Hat Connect for Technology Partners, is a newly minted program where "ISV partners can more effectively engage and collaborate with Red Hat and other like-minded partners on container-based solutions," according to Red Hat. It's aimed less at actual users of containers -- the folks deploying Dockerized apps in data centers -- and more at the folks looking to ensure that their packaged apps are a good fit for running in Red Hat's world.
There's also a potential contradiction, as containers are theoretically supposed to provide a logical separation between an app and its environment. Wouldn't an ideal container environment -- one where everything simply ran -- not need that kind of partnership support in the first place? Perhaps, but as everyone -- Red Hat and Docker included -- knows about containerization, it moves quickly and the pace tends to break things (and not always the items that need to be broken). Hence, the need for someone above or outside of the Docker ecosystem to guide others through it.
Those who join Red Hat Connect for Technology Partners have access to the Red Hat Container Development Kit, "a collection of tools and resources that enable developers to easily build and maintain containerized applications based on Docker for the Red Hat ecosystem." Containers built with this kit can then be checked via Red Hat Container Certification, which "verifies that a container's content is from trusted sources and that both it and the container itself are secure, free of known vulnerabilities, and will work on Red Hat infrastructure." To top it all off, Red Hat also plans to offer the Red Hat Container Registry from which enterprises can choose vetted containers.
The emphasis on working properly inside Red Hat's ecosystem is plain enough, and again seems less about Red Hat per se and more about ensuring the changes to Docker and containers don't throw off anyone trying to build infrastructure using those technologies. Container Certification is another nod toward one of Docker's long-standing criticisms -- the security and verifiability of containers -- and potential solutions both outside and inside of Docker. Certainly, Docker is working to fix those problems, but Red Hat is angling for a shorter timeframe and perhaps a superior methodology for delivering solutions.
As operating systems become commodities and apps and microservices rise in prominence, Red Hat is wise to not let the opportunity pass by. The company's plan is to assume the same paternalistic role with containers that it has had with Linux -- and in doing so, it can expect to be greeted by the same criticisms of de facto control that came with its use of OpenStack and its embrace of systemd. It's par for the course, it seems.