No such thing as absolute freedom from vendor lock-in, even in open source, proves Red Hat

OpenStack is a free, open source cloud computing platform giving users freedom from vendor lock-in. When it was alleged that Red Hat won’t support customers who use other versions of OpenStack cloud on its Linux operating systems, its president Paul Cormier passionately shared the company’s vision of open-source but steered clear from stating wholeheartedly that it WILL support its users no matter what version of OpenStack they use.

Any CIO worth his salt will admit that support services can be a deal-breaker when deciding to invest in technology.

Red Hat customers opt for the vendor’s commercial version of Linux (RHEL) over free Linux versions because they want to use its support services and make their IT enterprise-class. This has helped Red Hat build a $10bn empire around Linux and become the most dominant provider of commercial open source platform.


OpenStack (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So when Cormier says — “Users are free to deploy Red Hat Enterprise Linux with any OpenStack offering, and there is no requirement to use our OpenStack technologies to get a Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscription. 

And separately, Our OpenStack offerings are 100% open source. In addition, we provide support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform,” — customers are likely to pick Red Hat’s OpenStack cloud on Red Hat operating system resulting in supplier lock-in.

Cormier justified: “Enterprise-class open source requires quality assurance. It requires standards. It requires security. OpenStack is no different. To cavalierly ‘compile and ship,’ untested OpenStack offerings would be reckless. It would not deliver open source products that are ready for mission critical operations and we would never put our customers in that position or at risk. 

Yes, Red Hat has to seek growth from its cloud offerings and as an open source leader, it has to protect the reputation of open cloud as being enterprise-ready.

Red Hat’s efforts in the open source industry are commendable. For instance, it acquired Ceph provider Inktank last month and said it will open source Inktank’s closed source monitoring offering.

But as the open sourced poster child, it also has the responsibility to contribute more to the spirit of open cloud and to invest more in Open source technology to give users absolute freedom to choose the cloud they like.

Competition among cloud providers is getting fiercer. To grab a larger share of the growing market, some cloud providers are slashing cloud costs while others are differentiating by offering managed services.  But snatching flexibility and freedom from cloud users is never a good idea.

But it will be unfair to single out Red Hat to open up its ecosystem. There’s HP, IBM, VMware and Oracle who are all part of the OpenStack project and who all have their versions of OpenStack cloud.

As Cormier says, We would celebrate and welcome competitors like HP showing commitment to true open source by open sourcing their entire software portfolio.”

Until then it’s a murky world. What open source? What open cloud? 

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