Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Red Hat Opens Up CloudForms Hybrid Cloud Manager 

The final big chunk of software that commercial Linux juggernaut and virtualization and cloud player Red Hat has not yet open sourced after making a big acquisition has been set free.

At the OpenStack Summit 2014 event in Atlanta, Red Hat said that it was opening up its CloudForms hybrid cloud management tool and would, as it always does, create a community of developers around it to keep moving it ahead.

Everybody wants to be the Red Hat of the Cloud these days, which is one reason why OpenStack has so many different flavors, and no one wants to do that more than Red Hat itself. The company took a bit of time to get fully behind the OpenStack cloud controller, waiting until Rackspace Hosting, which co-founded the project with NASA four years ago, put together an independent foundation to steer the development of the cloud controller stack. Red Hat had attempted to create its own cross-platform and cross-cloud (public, private, and hybrid) orchestration, monitoring, governance, and chargeback software layer to ride atop cloud controllers like OpenStack, but in December 2012 it decided that the tool that ManageIQ had come up, called Enterprise Virtualization Management Suite, was better than what it had come up with and so it shelled out $104 million to acquire ManageIQ.

Joseph Fitzgerald, one of ManageIQ’s co-founders and the CTO at the former Novadigm, a system management company that Hewlett-Packard bought in early 2004, tells EnterpriseTech that ManageIQ had put out five releases of its EVM platform ahead of the acquisition by Red Hat, and since that time the two CloudForms releases were largely based on ManageIQ rather than on the predecessor code. At the time of the acquisition, EVM was able to hook into VMware ESXi, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Red Hat KVM hypervisors as well as the Xen-derived hypervisor used by Amazon Web Services for its EC2 compute cloud. Among its many functions, the resulting CloudForms software was able to provision servers and storage, provide chargeback billing for capacity, and manage the lifecycle of virtual machines on clouds from the moment they are created to the moment they are retired. It also had an analytics engine for doing all kinds of dicing and slicing of information concerning all the VMs in a cloud. Last November, with the CloudForms 3.0 launch, Red Hat released the beta of its first variant of OpenStack and let CloudForms wrap around it.

At the moment, given the fact that many large enterprises who are looking for the capabilities of CloudForms started out with VMware’s ESXi and have “thousands of sockets” in their installed base using it for server virtualization, the ManageIQ and CloudForms customer count is still dominated by ESXi. But, says Fitzgerald, OpenStack is seeing more uptake.

The one thing that is not going to happen is for CloudForms to become an OpenStack project, Fitzgerald explained to EnterpriseTech. For one thing, OpenStackers like to code in Python, and ManageIQ was written in Ruby on Rails and CloudForms is as well. And while it is completely logical to want to have an open source cloud infrastructure controller and to marry it with an open source workflow, provisioning, chargeback, governance, and monitoring tool, it doesn’t necessarily follow that all of the elements of CloudForms need to become individual OpenStack projects and be merged into the stack. In fact, the top brass at the OpenStack Foundation said this week at the summit that the plan was to create a core OpenStack code base and then allow of an ecosystem of add-ons to develop symbiotically but separately from that core code – much in the way the Linux operating system is distinct from and yet tied to Apache Web servers, MySQL databases, and PHP, Perl, and Python programming languages.

VMware is probably the biggest competitor to CloudForms, but Fitzgerald said that among the largest cloud and service providers, internal and proprietary systems were just as prevalent. The reason is simple: cloud controllers and orchestration and billing systems did not exist as open source projects a few years ago. At least not with the sophistication required. One of the things that enterprise customers care about is that CloudForms already integrates with ServiceNow as well as the systems management tools from BMC Software, HP, IBM, Microsoft, and others.

Among the initial big contributors to the ManageIQ project are Chef Software, maker of the eponymous system and application configuration tool that is popular as a provisioning layer in datacenters these days. AutoTrader Group, one of the largest dealers of new and used cars in the world, has been a ManageIQ customer for years and is contributing to the project, and so has been system integrator Booz Allen Hamilton, which was selling ManageIQ as part of commercial and government deals before Red Hat snapped up ManageIQ a year and a half ago.

If all goes well, the ManageIQ code will be ready for download in a few weeks at, and then we will see if any of Red Hat’s competitors decides to adopt all or part of the tool atop OpenStack or other cloud controllers.

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