Which freaking PaaS should I use?

The ups, downs, ins, and outs of deploying a legacy Java application to 7 leading platform-as-a-service clouds

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Red Hat OpenShift
Red Hat's PaaS offering, called OpenShift, is aimed at Node.js, Ruby, Python, PHP, Perl, and Java developers. OpenShift combines the full Java EE stack with newer technologies such as Node.js and MongoDB.

Differentiators. OpenShift runs Java applications on the JBoss Enterprise Application Platform (JBoss EAP), Red Hat's commercial distribution of JBoss. Red Hat considers Java Enterprise Edition 6 (Java EE 6) to be a compelling differentiator, along with allowing developers to choose the best tool for the job, whether it's Java EE 6, Ruby, Python, PHP, Node.js, Perl, or even a custom language runtime.

In the coming months, Red Hat will be launching the first commercial, paid, supported tier of the OpenShift service. Red Hat said it will also release an on-premises version for enterprises that can't run in the public cloud due to security, governance, and compliance restrictions.

Lock-in. "No lock-in" was one of the foundational principles used in the design and development of OpenShift, according to Red Hat. The company noted that OpenShift uses no proprietary APIs, languages, data stores, infrastructure, or databases, but is built with pure vanilla open source language runtimes and frameworks. This means, for example, that an application built with Python and MySQL on OpenShift will seamlessly port to Python and MySQL running on a stand-alone server or in another cloud (assuming the language versions are the same). Likewise, a JBoss Java EE 6 application running on OpenShift can be moved to any JBoss server.

Security. Red Hat publicly lists OpenShift's security compliance information. The company said that Red Hat's Security Response Team (the same team that continuously monitors Linux for vulnerabilities) is involved with the design and implementation of OpenShift and that the OpenShift OnLine PaaS service is continuously patched and updated by the OpenShift Operations team at the instruction of the Security team. Red Hat also noted that OpenShift runs SELinux, the security subsystem originally developed by the NSA.

Who's using it? Red Hat said a wide cross-section of companies are using OpenShift today, ranging from hobbyist developers to technology startups building their businesses in the cloud to systems integrators and service providers to Fortune 500 enterprises. The company noted that classic legacy applications that are running on mainframes or other legacy platforms are not great candidates for migration to a PaaS.

Because OpenShift is considered a "developer preview" -- Red Hat's term for beta or alpha -- the company didn't feel comfortable releasing any information about existing deployments.

How did it do? It was a lot more work than we expected to get Granny deployed to OpenShift. Swapping between the command-line deployment tool and the Web-based provisioning and management console lacked the user-friendliness of CloudBees or Cloud Foundry. The Red Hat Developer Studio plug-ins didn't work with our application out of the box. Ultimately, we had to edit a lot more descriptor files both inside and outside of the application than we did with other solutions.

Had we deployed a Java EE-compliant app, I'm sure OpenShift would have been friendlier. But when the command-line tool told me to run a command, then warned me that the command was deprecated, it left a bad taste in my mouth. This is truly a "developer preview" and rough around the edges.

Conclusions. If you're already developing JBoss applications, OpenShift may be a good fit. It's worth a preview now, but if you're looking to deploy to a PaaS today, it's not ready. Red Hat should continue to trumpet the Java EE compliance as a differentiating factor. However, even by 2006 when Andrew worked at JBoss, he noticed that most applications deployed in JBoss were written to the Spring Framework. Supporting Red Hat's existing customer base is all well and good, but greatness and business success will come from seamless deployment of applications developed by people who are not already in the Red Hat camp.

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