The enterprise is all about strange partnerships and alliances of late, and we definitely have DevOps, containers, and the open source community to thank. For people who were around when Windows was the only operating system, Red Hat and Microsoft getting together is almost like Apple and Samsung making a phone today (never going to happen). Now, though, the latest announcement is that Red Hat’s OpenShift container platform will soon support Windows Server containers. The alliance began a while ago and a quick recap is never a bad thing.
The relationship started about eight years ago in 2009 when both companies announced they'd be joining each other's virtualization validation and certification programs. In 2015, the alliance deepened with the ability to run Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) on Azure Virtual Machines. This integration also included all the extras like Red Hat JBoss Enterprise Application Platform, Red Hat JBoss Web Server, Red Hat Gluster Storage, and OpenShift.
While the key update was obviously RHEL as the preferred choice for enterprise Linux workloads on Azure, there were other updates as well like the fact that both companies were working to address common cloud-related enterprise and developer needs. Additionally, the alliance also meant developers would have access to .NET technologies across Red Hat offerings.
While analysts said the move was good for both companies and helped customers looking to embrace the hybrid cloud by providing greater choice and flexibility, we can’t blame both Microsoft and Red Hat for being a bit skeptical at first. By skeptical, we mean getting a prenuptial agreement before the “marriage;" after all, they were sworn enemies for a long time. Yes, before the deal went down, the two companies actually entered a patent arrangement that neither would pursue a patent lawsuit against each other or each other's customers.
While there are rumors that the partnership wasn’t that easy to make in the first place, the fact that both companies signed an agreement not to sue each other says a lot. A Microsoft spokesperson gave an official statement saying the agreement was consistent with both companies' principles; it’s obvious that there were trust issues at the beginning of this relationship.
Another important part of that agreement worth mentioning states “no payment was made or will be made for intellectual property." That last bit sounds like it would definitely have come from Red Hat but there’s no way to be certain. If it was Microsoft, that would be equally understandable since there’s a book called Under the Radar by Wendy Goldman Rohm about "How Red Hat Changed the Software Business and Took Microsoft by Surprise."
Containers make friends
Now, that’s all in the past and the new enterprise seems to be above lawsuits and licenses, obviously not out of choice, but that’s still a good thing for everyone. With containers pushing open source further and further into the enterprise, the latest integration from the two frenemies has containers front and center.
On the 22nd of August this year, both companies announced that Red Hat’s OpenShift container platform will soon support Windows Server containers. This expansion of the previous’ alliance is solely focused on simplifying container technology for the masses and drive more customers to the cloud. Apart from native support for Windows and SQL Server containers on OpenShift and RHEL, Red Hat OpenShift Dedicated is also available in Microsoft Azure.
While the benefits of using containers are definitely obvious to everyone, most organizations run mixed environments with different platforms. This complicates things quite a bit as even CoreOS’s Tectonic 1.7 doesn’t support mixed Linux and Windows environments yet. Additionally, it’s quite difficult to standardize an entire organization on a single infrastructure stack, especially if it’s a big one.
The new announcement from Microsoft and Red Hat not only meets these challenges head-on but will essentially make OpenShift the first Kubernetes-based container platform to support both Linux and Windows container workloads in a single platform across a hybrid environment. This feature is expected to be available as a preview by Spring 2018.
Red Hat OpenShift Dedicated is a container platform-as-a-service in the cloud that’s managed by Red Hat. On Azure, it will serve to help IT teams better manage cloud-native applications and the containers that are used to build them. Red Hat OpenShift Dedicated on Microsoft Azure aims at freeing IT teams from having to micromanage resources so they use their time and energy productively.
Red Hat OpenShift Dedicated on Microsoft Azure is expected to be available in early 2018 and availability has been announced across 42 regions globally which is more than any other public cloud provider. OpenShift already works on AWS and GCP and now with the addition of Azure, it pretty much covers most of the cloud making it an excellent choice for a hybrid platform.
SQL on Red Hat
A third announcement is that that .NET Core 2.0 as a container is available in OpenShift and that both companies are working towards making SQL Server fully functional on both RHEL and OpenShift. This is a significant update because it means .NET developers can now target RHEL which is quite popular among enterprise developers. Further plans include integrated support for RHEL in Microsoft Azure Stack which is Microsoft’s on-premise extension of Azure. Azure stack makes moving to a hybrid setup virtually painless and also lets you set up a private cloud with an Azure-like feel anywhere.
Every single cloud-related vendor has one thing on their mind right now and that’s how to encourage more organizations to lift and shift. A lot of organizations who have been around for a while, like Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft, are counting on their legacy customers to make the digital transition while they do the same. The big fear in everyone's mind is obviously what if their customers make that transition with AWS instead and the fact that Azure supports RHEL definitely puts them in a better position to avoid that.
Now, while the main highlight of the announcement is that customers using Windows Server can now easily move existing workloads to containers, this partnership makes a formidable foe for the competition. Both Microsoft and Red Hat know exactly what it takes to serve enterprise customers with a level of service they’re used to. Red Hat especially has experience in this area with regards to packaging open source software into enterprise-ready tools and applications, which is what Microsoft has been making steady progress at in recent years.
In conclusion, leveraging containers to increase agility is key in today’s cloud-native world. The alliance of Red Hat and Microsoft puts two organizations that have spent a lot of time and money fighting each other, now on the same side to help more organizations move cloudwards.
Scratching the surface
Most organizations have employees running multiple operating systems and the fact that there isn’t a single platform in place that can support that setup in a hybrid environment just goes to show how early in the game it actually is. The sheer number of organizations who have yet to make the transition to the cloud makes the current situation literally look like the tip of the iceberg.
The surface indeed hasn’t been scratched yet with regards to the potential of cloud and container technology and this is a power move for both Microsoft and Redhat at an opportune time. They already probably share a lot of customers, and if you think about it, what could be more hybrid than Microsoft and Red Hat?
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