With OpenShift 3, Red Hat puts container power in developers' hands

With the new version of OpenShift and the brand-new Atomic Enterprise Platform, Red Hat moves to make container technology a developer tool, not just an admin's one

open container  moving truck
Credit: flickr/Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier

If Red Hat wasn't a "container company" before, it's one now -- and in ways that matter to more than just admins dealing with Red Hat products.

Among the announcements the company put out this week at its annual Red Hat Summit, the two biggest were about Red Hat as a container (and, by that token, application) platform. Both expand on existing work Red Hat has done with containers, and both are aimed at app developers, rather than just those tasked with keeping installations of Red Hat products fed and happy.

First among the announcements was OpenShift 3. This latest version of Red Hat's PaaS has been retooled for an age of containers, as its "cartridges" and "gears" are taking a back seat to Docker and Kubernetes. InfoWorld's Martin Heller found using OpenShift was already a positive experience; adding technologies that are enjoying explosive uptake elsewhere ought to only make it easier to work with.

One of OpenShift's key distinguishers was its unabashed developer-centric focus. Deployments are done by way of git push, and CI is supported via Jenkins. Docker and Jenkins already enjoy close integration, so the new additions to OpenShift are strongly complementary in that vein.

The other major announcement, Red Hat Atomic Enterprise Platform, could be called OpenShift Lite. Built on top of Red Hat Linux Atomic Host, it sports the same stack as OpenShift minus the topmost layers of language runtimes or middleware. To that end, it's more useful in environments that want to run containers, but don't need the additional tooling or hand-holding provided by OpenShift.

Red Hat has long been determined to make containers a cornerstone of its enterprise offerings, but it took a gamble by beginning from the bottom of the stack -- the admin end of things -- rather than at the top where developers typically live. Atomic Host, for instance, put containerization to use as a way to perform updates to the system itself, so that breaking changes could be rolled back cleanly if needed. Red Hat's Container Certification and Container Registry projects attempted to address the verifiability and integrity of containers in enterprise settings -- in essence, dealing with a persistent low-level container problem rather than a higher-level one.

With OpenShift 3 and Atomic Enterprise Platform, though, the developer end of the equation is being filled in. Both are also central to Red Hat's determination to create an enterprise hybrid cloud solution built entirely on open source and open standards.

Red Hat's original plan was to do that by way of OpenStack, but that strategy has since expanded to include containers, OpenShift, and perhaps also the CloudForms management layer as well. All three are now available from Red Hat as a unified product, with Red Hat promising closer integration between all of them over time -- and with containers now an indelible part of all three to boot, it seems.

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