Red Hat announces strategy that allows mixing cloud platforms

Tools and capabilities would allow customers to build and move applications in and out of different cloud and virtual environments.

Red Hat announced on Wednesday a more comprehensive strategy for cloud computing that addresses portability and interoperability of applications, enabling agencies to mix and match public and private clouds, company officials said.

During a webcast, officials said the next release of Cloud Foundations, the company's portfolio of cloud offerings, will include tools and capabilities that allow customers to build applications and then move those applications, along with the associated computing power, in and out of different cloud and virtual environments with open application programming interfaces.

"It's common knowledge that there are multiple layers that are needed to deliver a true cloud," including virtualization technology, software and middleware, and at the foundation, an operating system to support the range of applications and tools, said Paul Cormier, executive vice president for products and technologies at Red Hat. "Those are all pieces that we, as well as Microsoft, are capable of bringing together. [All the other vendors] can pretty much offer only bits and pieces."

Greater flexibility in how cloud applications are deployed could be attractive to federal agencies, which often require a private cloud environment for sensitive applications, but might want to take advantage of the cost savings associated with a public cloud for standard IT services. Public clouds are external to an organization, providing essentially the same services with limited customization. Private clouds can be internal or external, but with the resources dedicated and tailored to the enterprise, Gary Chen, research manager for enterprise virtualization software at IDC, said during the webcast.

"Never is anything an all-or-nothing proposition," he added. "A typical customer would have applications using both [public and private clouds] at the same time, with some parts running internally and some externally, then getting fused together into a single comprehensive application or service."

Cormier agreed. "It's clear to us in working with [chief information officers] and IT managers that a hybrid model is the model of choice," he said. "[They want] the ability to run on Google's [cloud offering] for one application, but on a private cloud for another, and a public cloud for another. Being able to tie those together and manage them as one virtual environment is key."

Red Hat's announcement comes three months after federal CIO Vivek Kundra emphasized the need for cloud computing standards to address security, interoperability and data portability during a workshop hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

"Vivek Kundra made it clear that the federal government wanted transparent, interoperable and portable infrastructure," said Gunnar Hellekson, chief technology strategist for Red Hat's public sector group.