Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Saturday, December 3, 2022

Red Hat Flexes OpenShift Online Pricing 

This week prominent Linux vendor Red Hat added more flexible pricing options for its hosted Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) cloud offering, OpenShift Online – a decision no doubt spurred by the harsh realities of cloud economics. The new Bronze pricing scheme was the focal point of a recent blog, which details several customer-friendly changes.

All pricing plans – Free, Silver and now Bronze – come with OpenShift's core features, including auto-scaling, easy deployment using the “git push,” application portability, and system administration support, as well as three small “gears” for free. Gears, aka resource-constrained containers, come in different sizes – small, medium, and large – to suit the needs of various software stacks.

While the Free version taps out at 1 GB storage per gear, the Bronze and Silver customers are allotted 1 GB and 6 GB respectively and now the metal-themed options allow the user to expand storage capacity at a cost of $1 per GB per month.

Users of the Silver plan, which starts at $20 per month, will also benefit from a higher gear ceiling. While Bronze users are relegated to 16 gears of any size (mix and match style), Silver users can now exceed this limit by submitting a customer support ticket.

For the new Bronze plan, the main benefit is the lack of monthly fee, meaning users pay only for what they need. Free and Bronze plan users do miss out on the full Red Hat support, though (it's only included in the Silver plan), but they can avail themselves of considerable community support.

In an interview with EnterpriseTech, Red Hat's director of OpenShift Online Sathish Balakrishnan emphasized the service's auto-scalability feature, which helps the developer by horizontally scaling based on load. If the load goes up, the gears scale up and when the load goes away, OpenShift scales back down automatically, saving on cost.

With regard to peak scalability, Balakrishnan says that he has not encountered a use case that they couldn't support. Since mostly startups favor the online version, those scale limits haven't really been pushed, he adds.

Designed to support the development, hosting, and scaling of applications in a cloud environment, Red Hat's OpenShift PaaS was first announced as a developer preview in 2011. Since that time, the OpenShift portfolio has expanded to include online, on premise, and open source project options. When OpenShift Online's Silver plan debuted last June, OpenShift became the only platform with commercial offerings for both public and private PaaS.

The online and enterprise versions are both based on the OpenShift Origin open source project, available on GitHub. The project leverages Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and the SELinux (Security Enhanced Linux) subsystem for a secure, multi-tenant architecture. OpenShift was designed to provide greater flexibility than other PaaS offerings and supports a variety of programming languages and frameworks, including Java, Ruby, PHP, Python and more.

This is not the first price reduction for the OpenShift service. In 2013, Red Hat lowered OpenShift Online gear pricing by 50 percent to stay competitive with the growing number of PaaS options from providers as diverse as CloudFoundry, Heroku, and CloudBees to dual-strategy IaaS/PaaS players like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon Web Services. Despite dire analyst predictions regarding the viability of PaaS, Red Hat OpenShift has attracted some pretty big customers, including PayPal, Accenture, FICO, and Cisco Systems.

Since the OpenShift service's debut, there have been some interesting developments, including Windows integration that enabled users to run .NET applications and SQL Server on the PaaS. According to upstream project partner Uhuru who was responsible for the integration work, "OpenShift users can now use the same tools they love for managing their Linux apps with .NET."

When it comes to product differentiation in the PaaS space, Balakrishnan emphasizes that OpenShift is one of the few offerings that has online and enterprise versions, enabling a path for startups to migrate to an on-premise enterprise version as they grow. On top of that, Red Hat contends that OpenShift has strong functionality out of the box compared with competing products, such as native scaling at the application level, the ability to launch new applications directly from the Web console, deployment roll-backs, and integrated git source control, among others.

Considering OpenShift's robust open source ties, it is likely that one of the biggest competitive threats comes from the newly formed Cloud Foundry Foundation. Pivotal started the Cloud Foundry Foundation last month with strong industry support, including such notables as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Rackspace Hosting, and SAP. What OpenShift does have, though, is a very strong developer community and the backing of the world's first billion-dollar open source company.

Diane Mueller, cloud ecosystem evangelist and OPneShift Origin community manager, contends that Red Hat's approach, which values vendor-neutral meritocratic processes and eschews contributor license agreements (CLAs) and foundations, has helped make OpenShift one of the top five community projects on GitHub, ranked by number of merged pull requests.

"The combination of our open, social collaborative infrastructure model, our adoption of an Apache V2.0 license, and our good sense not to require CLAs (or large donations to a foundation) in order to contribute is what makes us the most successful open source PaaS available," she notes in a recent blog post.

For a contributor's perspective on the distinguishing merits of OpenShift versus Cloud Foundry, Vlad Iovanov, lead and architect at Uhuru Software, has summarized the insights that Uhuru gathered while working on OpenShift and Cloud Foundry projects over the last two years.

OpenShift seems to excel when it comes to ease of use, owning to Red Hat's legacy. Iovanov's evaluation of the deployment process highlights this point:

“This is a long story and it varies greatly on what scenario you have in mind,” writes Iovanov, “If you simply want to deploy a medium sized PaaS – say 50 Nodes or DEAs (I think most of us fit in this bucket at this point) – Red Hat has an edge because the system administrator is able to get started immediately on deploying OpenShift (either Origin or Enterprise). He or she has plenty of documentation and all the command line tools to operate the system. Given that most Linux in the enterprise is Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), administrators will be familiar with these tools and probably require little, if any new training in order to get started. The OpenShift deployment strategy is based on Puppet, which is very popular.”

He continues:“On the Cloud Foundry side administrators may have a harder time kicking the tires. The deployment mechanism provided (BOSH) will be unfamiliar, so they will most likely need training. BOSH, however, would appear to reduce the amount of time needed to manage the PaaS in the long term. By default BOSH downloads a lot of additional bits from the web, including Stemcells. Many administrators will not be comfortable running clones of Pivotal's images and will have to build their own.”

The first-hand review from someone who has dug into both these code bases is definitely worth reading in full if you are considering a PaaS service for your development needs.

About the author: Tiffany Trader

With over a decade’s experience covering the HPC space, Tiffany Trader is one of the preeminent voices reporting on advanced scale computing today.

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