Middleware in transit: OpenShift and CloudForms take PaaS and IaaS path

Platform as a Service and Infratructure as a Service offerings at JBoss World 2011 showed the future of middleware on cloud computing architecture.

Cloud computing Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings were discussed last week at Red Hat's JBoss World 2011 conference in Boston. The moves show the open source middleware company working hard to enable its software for the much discussed cloud computing architecture.

Like its competitors, Red Hat seems determined to adjust as familiar middleware types ''take to the cloud.'' Both of the new Red Hat cloud initiatives appear to be in early betas, but general availability is set for this year.

Some re-architecting of key JBoss elements is underway to improve system performance on the cloud. In the mean time, we have the PaaS and IaaS betas. These build on acquisitions, as well as experiences Red Hat gained in the course of its Red Hat Cloud Foundations effort announced last year.

The Red Hat OpenShift PaaS offering builds on software gained with the acquisition of Makara in late 2010. Makara's mission was to provision JBoss application servers for deployment on public and private clouds. This includes monitoring and management.

In effect, the offering also builds on Red Hat's new CloudForms IaaS. That system will form integrated cloud infrastructure from a variety of physical and virtual servers, and can run on environments such as Amazon, IBM and NTT communications clouds.

"OpenShift is more than just rebranding of Makara. Red Hat has worked on the runtime, the cloud infrastructure underneath," said Adrian Cole, independent consultant and Jclouds open source project contributor.

Cole said the CloudForms stack can span from ''the metal to the platform.'' The platform can be OpenShift, which supports Java today, with Ruby and other languages said to be supported in future iterations.

''I like the attention they have put toward security. They are supporting governance,'' said Cole. "For example, they provide a secure Linux underneath.'' He also noted that Red Hat was working to re-architect JBoss to perform well on the cloud platform. OpenShift as it stands today is more on the order of a direct port for existing applications based on the JBoss Enterprise Application Platform.

Wider application deployment environment, ahoy!

At the recent conference Red Hat JBoss, CTO Mark Little told attendees that the company was moving to support wider deployment environments. "In many ways, we are laying the foundation of the next generation of cloud," he said.

"Ultimately, what we want to do is break down developer silos," said Little, suggesting REST Easy (a tool for building RESTful Web services or Java applications) or other tools can be relevant to a larger range of environments. 

This represents a significant undertaking for JBoss, which came into the world on the wave of a somewhat monolithic application server. The shift was set in motion with JBoss's work on so-called microcontainer architectures. Such component containers need not run solely on servers, said Little.

"In JBoss 7, the underlying container is the modular services container," he said. "That lays the groundwork for architectural changes so that services don't have to be services in name only. These are real services, not co-located. They don't have to be with a server."

Such underlying architecture, coupled with larger service-oriented architecture sets the stage for advanced cloud computing. Said Little: "SOA is the right approach for developing applications in the cloud, because it involves a separation of concerns and loose coupling."

Divvy up the middleware work

Red Hat is positioning itself for a time when enterprises divvy up middleware work among private and public cloud environments, yet some fundamental rules will apply, according to Judith Hurwitz, president of Hurwitz & Associates and co-author of "SOA for Dummies."

''This is an evolution of [Red Hat/JBoss] cloud strategy. They are taking a really holistic view," she said.

CloudForms is for use as a private and hybrid cloud. It is an Infrastructure as a Service play, but they are also integrating business rules and business processes," suggests Hurwitz. Organizations eventually will keep some processing and data elements on a private cloud, said Hurwitz, but they will go to a public cloud for some computation work.

Meanwhile, OpenShift is "about languages and development processes," she said.

"Even though it is on a cloud, the issues of enterprise development are still there," said Hurwitz, pointing to configuration and meta data handling as examples as such issues. ''You have to take a holistic view of development resources," she said.

''Red Hat has thought it through," said Hurwitz's colleague Marcia Kaufmann. ''It is hard to use cloud if you cannot move data and integrations between public and private clouds. That is what Red Hat is working on," said Kaufmann, partner, Hurwitz & Associates, and also co-author of "SOA for Dummies."

"A lot of companies began with open source via proof-of-concept teams, but now it is across the organization. Red Hat can expand on that opportunity,'' concluded Kaufmann.

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