Red Hat CEO: PaaS is the new application server

In an interview with InfoWorld, CEO Jim Whitehurst discusses Red Hat's ambitions with the cloud and OpenShift

Red Hat is best known for its RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) distribution, but the company has been making a big push into cloud computing with its OpenShift platform as a service, offered in both public and private cloud versions. Initially launched three years ago, OpenShift is based on RHEL and offers autoscaling while letting developers focus on code and automating IT service delivery. InfoWorld Editor at Large Paul Krill recently spoke with Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst about the company's cloud efforts.

InfoWorld: Are enterprises really making a concerted effort to move applications to PaaS, or are they still keeping that in-house?

Whitehurst: People are much more interested in running PaaS in-house than not in-house. We see a lot of interest in PaaS but very little interest necessarily in running PaaS on cloud infrastructures. I think broadly, this is going to be much more of the era of private cloud infrastructure as a service, more so than PaaS. PaaS is still in its early days, much earlier days than IaaS.

InfoWorld: How critical is OpenShift and cloud computing to Red Hat? Do you see this as a bigger revenue-generating opportunity than selling support services for your Red Hat Linux variant?

Whitehurst: It goes a little bit together. Without a doubt, whether it's our storage or our version of OpenStack or OpenShift, [they are] all new revenue opportunities for us, and they all tie back to RHEL to help drive RHEL sales.

InfoWorld: You're making .Net capabilities available on OpenShift. What's the deal there?

Whitehurst: As you can imagine, there's still a large share of applications written in .Net. We are supporting .Net, and it's still in beta, but we are supporting .Net on OpenShift, so you can run .Net applications on OpenShift. [Editor's note: Red Hat is partnering with Uhuru Software on this project. A .Net extension for OpenShift Origin, developed by Uhuru, runs natively on Windows servers integrated with the OpenShift RHEL-based platform.]

InfoWorld: What's the importance of running .Net apps on OpenShift?

Whitehurst: For companies that have a lot of applications and want to have a standardized environment on which they're running, OpenShift brings all the benefits of autoscaling, failover, and so on, to how you're running your infrastructure. A lot of applications are written in .Net, so if you can get the benefits of all the features of OpenShift, it's a relatively powerful way to run applications even if they're written for Windows. 

InfoWorld: Do you see PaaS clouds displacing application servers in the enterprise?

Whitehurst: At the heart of OpenShift is the JBoss application server. The PaaS itself includes all the tooling you need to do the logical separation, to do the management, to do scaling, to do failover. The application is still running in a Java virtual machine, and the application server is still providing a whole set of that functionality. The languages we talked about that are on OpenShift are all languages that run on a virtual machine. It all works together. The application server is still at the heart of the PaaS.

InfoWorld: What did you think of Pivotal spinning out Cloud Foundry into its own open source foundation? 

Whitehurst: I don't think it's anything necessarily earth-shattering. It's already been an open source project. I think IBM talking about optimizing WebSphere for it is something that we watch because obviously we offer a full line of traditional middleware as well. There's a good chance what you'll see is Cloud Foundry having a bit of affinity to WebSphere and obviously OpenShift having an affinity to the JBoss portfolio. Overall, it's a strong validation that all the major companies see that PaaS is a market that's going to develop. While it's frankly pretty small now and very nascent, just people trying to figure out exactly what it is there, the fact that all these major players are getting behind it [means] it's likely to emerge as important over time.

This story, "Red Hat CEO: PaaS is the new application server," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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