3 takeaways from Red Hat's AWS deal for OpenShift

Red Hat and Amazon have buddied up before, but not quite like this. Here are 3 reasons why offering AWS options with OpenShift is intriguing news

3 takeaways from Red Hat's AWS deal for OpenShift
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Red Hat and Amazon have long been framed as rivals, but only in the sense that anyone who provides on-prem Linux and PaaS products competes to some degree with a cloud provider. Really, they’re more like peanut butter and jelly.

Yesterday, Red Hat unveiled details about a new partnership with Amazon to support integrating some widely used AWS options into Red Hat’s OpenShift PaaS. The list of services covers basic infrastructure (AWS Route 53, AWS Cloudfront), data (AWS Redshift/Aurora/Athena), and cutting-edge technologies (AWS Lambda).

Here are three reasons why offering those services with OpenShift is big for Red Hat and its customers—and how it could potentially be big for other cloud vendors too.

1. It goes where you go

This deal isn’t only about supporting these services if you’re running an OpenShift instance on AWS. These integrations, and the matching support for them, apply anywhere OpenShift may be running, whether on-prem, on Red Hat’s own hosted provisions, or on AWS.

Red Hat has made noise aplenty about OpenShift as an anyplace, anytime, anywhere product. Not only is OpenShift deployable behind the firewall and on AWS itself, Red Hat also provides OpenShift Online and OpenShift Dedicated for, respectively, custom-hosted and bare-metal incarnations.

In theory, Red Hat could have confined support for AWS to instances of OpenShift running only on AWS. That would have worked, but it would have been too limiting for Red Hat and its customers alike.

Red Hat wants OpenShift to proliferate in multiple environments, and that requires as consistent a feature set as possible between incarnations. With this move, Red Hat signals the consistency extends to OpenShift integrating with third-party offerings, too.

2. It’s about having one throat to choke (yes, that again)

Sometimes clichés are true for a reason: Enterprisesy do like having a single point of contact for support when it comes to an interrelated family of products, even from different vendors.

Hence Red Hat’s assurance, as described in an online session held yesterday, that it will provide full support for everything deployed in this deal. If a Red Hat customer has a problem with using AWS Lambda in conjunction with an OpenShift setup, it’ll be able to get help for both the Red Hat and the Amazon sides from Red Hat.

This may be a product of the frustration that enterprises have had with getting support for cloud products. Enterprises aren’t always aware of the best routes for effective communication with a cloud provider, but the providers themselves have long been under the delusion that “self-service IT” can be safely assumed to be code language for “you’re on your own.” (Case in point: Google.)

The less of this confusion enterprises face going forward, the better—and Red Hat is wise to provide that trust pre-emptively.

3. Nothing says this is an exclusive deal

Nothing has prevented Red Hat from offering RHEL—or OpenShift, or any of its products—exclusively on one cloud. Likewise, nothing says, later on, Red Hat can’t strike similar federation-of-services deals for OpenShift to integrate goodies from Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, or IBM Bluemix.

This isn’t the same as, say, using OpenShift on Azure, which is already happening. This is about allowing features exclusive to those services—Watson on Bluemix,  Functions on Azure, or what have you—to work as a supported adjunct to OpenShift. If Red Hat and Amazon are likely to benefit from such a pairing, there’s no reason to think Red Hat and other clouds couldn’t do the same.

Another reason both Red Hat and the other clouds would benefit from such a move is that enterprises rarely use only one cloud—even if that one cloud is a no-brainer option like Amazon. They typically use multiple clouds, extracting from each the features they can’t get from the others. Adding more competing clouds’ services to OpenShift wouldn’t knock Amazon off its plinth, but it would give more reason for enterprises to keep picking those other clouds side by side with Amazon, as they already do.