They've rebadged it you fool

Red Hat’s PaaS OpenShift first for Java EE 6, reveals pricing model

Chris Mayer

Straight out of Boston, Red Hat reveal the business model behind their cloud platform, but aren’t leaving behind free Java cloud hosting entirely.

It’s fair to say that Red Hat’s platform-as-a-service, OpenShift has been on a roll of late. Receiving plenty of footfall, forming a steady community quicksharp, and ushering in plenty of innovations such as supporting MongoDB, many were left wondering how Red Hat would cash in on their rapidly-changing platform.

It all appears clear now, with Red Hat deploying a number of huge announcements surrounding OpenShift at their Boston conference, Red Hat Summit. The one they were most keen to publicise was that OpenShift has become the first PaaS to support Java EE 6 Full Profile – a pretty big move that will sound alarm bells at the headquarters of competitors. This gives OpenShift a distinct advantage in attracting seasoned Java EE to the platform. The addition of Red Hat’s commercially-supported JBoss EAP 6 into the developer preview will ensure crossover from fellow JBoss developers. You’d expect collaboration to be running rife here, since OpenShift is keen to target hybrid environments and keep the platform open to avoid vendor lock-in. We’ve not even mentioned the fact that it also dabbles with other languages such as Python and Ruby, attaining further interest there.

But to seal this enterprise-focused attack, Red Hat needed to shift tactics slightly to offer an enticing business proposition. OpenShift has changed guise a few times now – previously it was split into Express (the freebie version that would run PHP, Python and Ruby via AWS), Flex (Java and PHP apps with a MySQL or MongoDB backend) and Power (with cloud-controller CloudForms).

In April, there was another repurposing designed to gain as much open source buzz as possible in OpenShift Origin. They did away with the three options and went down the Apache licensing route to gain traction, which we think was smart at the time and is still a shrewd move. And only last month, they revealed that they wanted to welcome Devops-minded and ITops-minded developers into the fold too. Normally, we’d call a technology out for changing direction at will, but with the PaaS market very much a developing space, it’s not necessarily a bad idea to test out a few things and react to them accordingly.

Clearly not wanting to quell this movement entirely, nor alienate the community, OpenShift is now offering enterprise-grade support in a new strategem. The entry level FreeShift, as the name suggests, is available to all and still makes a fairly compelling offers to PaaS newcomers. You can still get your Java, PHP, node.js, Python, PHP and Perl applications up into the cloud, with the help of several technologies: JBoss EAP 6, MongoDB, MySQL, Jenkins and so on PostgreSQL. If you want more bang for your buck, MegaShift allows you to to scale up to 16 gears to add in extra functionalities.  A gear is Red Hat’s unit of measurement for compute, bandwidth, memory and storage so the paid tier adds in support for the entire stack below the application code.

Whilst the rebadging is quite straightforward, it gets more complex below the surface: with FreeShift you can only have three ‘max gears’ before needing to upgrade to MegaShift. And should you want to run Java EE 6, you have to add 3 cents more per gear-hour on top of those prices, which could baffle some, as shown by this Twitter conversation:

Issac Roth, with the curious title of PaaS Master at Red Hat, told InternetNews that people have been asking about the pricing for months.

“We’re going to keep the same level of resources that we give to people today in the developer preview and have a tier called FreeShift,” Roth said. “There might have been some people that didn’t believe we would continue to offer a free service.”

Naive people surely? Everything’s got a price. Whilst he was unwilling to provide specifics, Roth even revealed plans to have an even higher advanced tier, dubbed Petashift, although we wouldn’t see this until next year. FreeShift is available now, whilst MegaShift will be arriving in private beta form later in 2012.

We certainly think that a OpenShift shuffling makes sense from an enterprise perspective – Red Hat’s latest advances across the board make it a necessity. The issue arises when you continually shake things up due to developer demand, causing confusion from those you’ve already attracted. Every PaaS should be proactive to industry change, we’re just worried OpenShift runs the risk of attempting too much all at once.

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