Ubuntu vs. Red Hat: Racing to the OpenStack Cloud
If you’re evaluating enterprise cloud platforms, you might have noticed there is more than meets the eye when it comes to comparing what’s out there, especially if you’re diving into free and open source cloud solutions. From hypervisors to infrastructure as a service, to storage and platform as a service, and the many database and configuration tool options, it can be daunting, to say the least.
When looking at open source cloud options, two leaders stand apart from the crowd. Let’s take a look at Red Hat and Canonical’s Ubuntu cloud offerings, particularly their recent announcements and a comparison between the two platforms, including common technologies and unique features.
What’s New with Red Hat
Red Hat and Dell have joined forces and are co-engineering an enterprise grade OpenStack powered private cloud solution. OpenStack, a popular open source IaaS option for cloud components such as compute, object storage, networking, identify service, image service, among others, is used by many vendors (Ubuntu included).
The significance of the Red Hat and Dell partnership is the potential to lead against other OpenStack providers by establishing predictability, defined levels of service, and standards of enterprise cloud performance through their pre-tested solutions. Additionally, since Red Hat has a tried and true support model for its operating system product, by pairing with Dell the two companies plan to work with customers on custom data center deployments with an eye to scalability and high availability, and apply their pre-existing support model to their cloud customers.
What’s New with Ubuntu
Canonical also has news for its cloud computing platform, recently releasing Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (long term support). And although Red Hat and Ubuntu both seem to favor OpenStack (alternatives include Apache CloudStack, Eucalyptus, and OpenNebula) for IaaS, Ubuntu touts its OpenStack Interop Lab (OIL) platform that supports partners such as Cisco, Brocade, Dell, EMC, Emulex, Fusion-io, Mellanox Technologies, Open Compute, HP, IBM, Intel and VMware, to name a few.
Interoperability is Ubuntu’s primary focus, with several thousand implementation configurations under test weekly, including third-party applications, and a host of collaborative partnerships. Among those running Ubuntu cloud solutions are Time Warner Cable, NEC, Verizon, Instagram and Quora. Canonical is also working with service providers like AWS, Azure, HP Cloud, and IBM SoftLayer.
Ubuntu notes that its cloud solution is supported on the widest range of modern architectures, from IBM POWER to ARM64. And while others are building their cloud solutions on OpenStack, Kevin Jackson, key author and leader in the OpenStack community says that “Ubuntu has helped establish OpenStack as the leading open cloud platform today and the Ubuntu Cloud Archive is the default way for many to get the latest stable releases of OpenStack. 14.04 LTS with Icehouse is much anticipated by the OpenStack community as offering the right blend of stability and access to the latest cloud capabilities.”
Red Hat vs. Ubuntu
Both Red Hat and Ubuntu offer great products and doubtless you’ll find a reason to implement either of their cloud offerings in your organization. Before making a decision, digging deeper into the core architectures of both is needed. Below, you’ll find links to several pages that provide deep dives that will help you do just that. But before we leave you to that exercise, here are a few more tidbits of information that might help you tailor your research:
- Ubuntu currently is shipping the latest version of OpenStack, “Icehouse,” which has an updated scheduling system, as well as better metering and instrumentation. Red Hat Enterprise, however, will remain on the stable version of “Havana” for a little longer while Red Hat RDO users are installing “Icehouse” in preparation for GA. That said, don’t forget that Red Hat is the top contributor to the last two versions of OpenStack, though currently 55 percent of OpenStack users are on Ubuntu where Red Hat is only at 10 percent. Still, keep an eye on Red Hat since they’ve now joined forces with CentOS which has a large share of OpenStack users, too.
- Both Ubuntu and Red Hat are aggressively providing integration for Docker, the app containerization technology, and helping cloud users understand the new features offered in the latest Docker release. Red Hat is certifying Dockerized applications and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 is slated to be a Red Hat certified container host. It’s worth noting, though, that the Docker project actually develops on Ubuntu and recommends Ubuntu as an installation path; support for most GNU/Linux distributions is offered by Docker, however.
- At the 10,000 foot level, both companies have a fairly well established commercial support infrastructure for their customers. However, because a fully functional cloud platform can be implemented on Ubuntu for “free” without a commercial support package, where Red Hat OS users looking to develop a cloud platform need to be aware they’ll have to subscribe to Red Hat services at some level for enterprise capabilities, some industry watchers wonder if Ubuntu’s weight of OpenStack implementers is more to do with experimentation at a lower price tag. Because there are many different elements of a cloud, from the operating system, to the compute infrastructure, be sure to review how the support services differ when evaluating Red Hat and Ubuntu and just how much of the maintenance burden you’re willing to take on.