Open-source software provider Red Hat Inc. is the latest vendor to embrace the concept of providing layered add-on services above the operating system that it can potentially charge customers more for.
The Raleigh, N.C., company on Tuesday will announce that it is building an open-source enterprise architecture that will deliver a standards-based open-source infrastructure that focuses on management and broad applications across multiple hardware platforms.
This new open-source architecture will increase the breadth of uses for Linux, dramatically improve its total cost of ownership and help convince customers that Linux is ready for the enterprise, Paul Cormier, executive vice president of engineering at Red Hat, told eWEEK in an interview.
Now that Red Hat has put in place a platform with its enterprise Linux offerings, customers want it to do the same things architecturally, but they want it to move outside the operating system into more pieces of the infrastructure, he said.
Red Hat has held a number of meetings with enterprise customers, and the ISV, IHV and open-source communities to hear what their problems are and what areas of infrastructure they have found do not integrate well with Linux and that would benefit from the open-source model.
“This helped us to chart a course and helped us identify areas like management, virtualization and security because of those discussions. We are keeping the same community model that we have used with the operating system,” Cormier said.
“Were not going to go and reinvent the wheel. This doesnt necessarily have to be a Red Hat product. Participate in it and use the same model were in today,” he said.
The Open Source Architecture will be delivered in phases and has three major components: the platform, virtualization and management. “By doing it in modules, we will be able to add these outside the boundary of the operating system and will be able to bring in things like Java, new management modules as well as aspects of virtualization and clustering.
“The quarterly updates of the operating system will also address any dependencies on the other layers,” Cormier said.
Red Hat is taking the opposite approach to Microsoft Corp. and, rather than stuffing everything in the operating system and creating the “bloat” effect, it is taking a layered approach that will let customers choose whether to use its open solutions or a proprietary one from someone else, he said.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3, due next month, will act as the unifying platform and be available on seven architectures for both client and server deployments.
In the second phase, Red Hat will provide virtualization capabilities at two architectural layers: the application execution layer by leveraging open-source Java technologies, and the physical environment layer via file system and clustering technologies. These capabilities will be delivered in the next two quarters, Cormier said.
This phase will also address other key areas of infrastructure, including a Web applications framework. Red Hat has been working with the ObjectWeb consortium, the Apache Software Foundation and the Eclipse IDE development community and has been contributing to the development of an open-source Web applications framework, J2EE implementation and associated development tools.
Clustering work, which started with Red Hat Advanced Server 2, will be extended and delivered in the next quarter, Cormier said. “You dont just wake up one morning and have the architecture. This is a direction to where were going. Everything from this point on adds to and plugs into that architecture,” he said.
But Red Hat has not yet decided whether some pieces and services will have additional charges to those customers to whom they were delivered as layered components and who want to use them.
“Will there be a subscription for application servers? Fundamentally the answer is yes, but the reality is that by not stuffing that into the core operating system the people using those services would be the ones paying for that particular subscription,” he said.
Asked about Sun Microsystems Inc.s new Java Enterprise System solution, Cormier said he is not aware of any open-source GNU General Public Licensed solution for Java. “This is not just about open standards, it is about the open participation, development and implementation of it. Thats where theres a big difference between our model and the Java model,” he said.
The Sun solution also leaves the user in a box because at the end of the day they are buying the hardware and that has to be Sun hardware, he said, adding that one of the beauties of Linux is that it gives customers the ability to go for the lowest-cost hardware and not have to change their operating environment.
The advancement of security technologies will also be a major focus in all phases of Red Hats open-source architecture development, including the implementation of an enterprisewide security infrastructure, providing a seamless integration of multiple open-source technologies such as access control, single sign-on, identity management and authentication, Cormier said.
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