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Colorful Battle in Store Between Red Hat and Azure

Red Hat has a cloud platform. It has a target competitor for that platform: Microsoft Azure. And it has a huge challenge ahead.

The darling of the open source world revealed this week that it has developed a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS, of course -- but not that Paas, or even this one) offering, primarily aimed at companies looking to create "hybrid" clouds, or mixed Internet-service and on-premises IT environments.

In revealing its new platform, Red Hat did perhaps more than it realized to validate Microsoft's competitive offer. Quoth the news story linked above:

"Paul Cormier, executive vice-president and president of Red Hat's products and technologies unit, said that Red Hat and Microsoft are the only two companies that can offer the entire stack necessary to run a hybrid cloud-enabled IT environment. He added that some virtualization vendors lack the operating system and a 'credible middleware offering' to make this claim."

First of all, mee-ow! Take that, VMware! Of course, Cormier is probably right, but he might not realize how such a statement plays into Microsoft's hands. A pure-cloud environment, in which everything runs on an Internet-based platform hosted in a vendor's data center and is delivered to a company on a subscription basis, levels the playing field somewhat for companies trying to compete against Microsoft.

After all, if a company really is going to just chuck its whole IT infrastructure into the cloud, there's no reason for it not to consider a fresh start with a brand-new vendor. But nobody's doing that -- and Red Hat gets that (as does Microsoft). Companies are going to farm some functionality out to the cloud but continue to house some of it -- probably most of it -- within their own walls.

And that's where Microsoft should have the same old advantage it has had over Red Hat and other vendors for years: its massive installed base. It's the old pitch extended to a new model: Why mess around with multiple vendors when you can get everything from Redmond, both what you have in-house and what you need in a hosted model?

OK, so maybe the pitch isn't quite that simple, but it's not far off. And it is one big point in Microsoft's favor as the company begins in earnest to compete in the cloud with rivals such as Amazon, Google and now Red Hat. Plus ca change, as the French would say...The more things change, the more things stay the same.

What's your take on Microsoft competing with Red Hat in the cloud? How compelling does Red Hat's PaaS offer look at first blush compared to Azure? Send your thoughts to lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on August 26, 2010 at 11:56 AM