Red Hat gambles on Amazon's cloud as an infrastructure provider

Linux software player Red Hat this week entered public beta with a hosted edition of JBoss Enterprise Application Platform, its second product to take advantage of Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) Web-based infrastructure.

A hosted version of Red Hat's enterprise software which includes Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) was made available last November through Amazon's cloud, and is also still in public beta.

What software-as-a-service requires in order to be practical and applicable over a very large scale, is a fast and ubiquitously available network infrastructure. For several years, SOA application architects have focused on service applications that rely on Java-oriented middleware; and from those architects' point of view, they presume the infrastructure always exists and is always available. But the end user can't always make that presumption.

Last summer, Red Hat rolled out an innovative concept called the Red Hat Command Center. Its value proposition was based on Red Hat becoming the infrastructure provider, with network monitoring software supplied directly to the customer. Under that approach, Red Hat becomes a hardware as well as software provider, though maintenance of the application is shifted over to the customer as though the hardware were on-site. That option remains available today.

What Red Hat announced this morning, however, was an alternative approach even to Command Center, which could end up being both less resource-intensive and less expensive. With this approach, the Linux vendor is essentially outsourcing its infrastructure to Amazon EC2.

Under the cloud computing beta program, customers can use the JBoss middleware together with RHEL to create applications that are hosted on Amazon's cloud. The Java-based JBoss Enterprise Application Platform middleware combines Red Hat's Java EE-enabled JBoss Application Server with open source technologies from JBoss.org such as Seam and Hibernate.

What exactly do these applications do, and who deploys them? Major national retailers operate their inventory control and shipment operations using JBoss SaaS software. State and municipal governments conduct law enforcement operations. Nationwide travel agencies collaborate with reservation services to create travel itineraries for customers. Physics institutes worldwide conduct collaborative research into the makeup of the human genome. And foreign aid agencies conduct logistical planning operations to provide assistance to needy areas of the world.

Red Hat officials contend that users benefit from the subscription-based approach by only having to pay for the computing capacity they need.

As listed on Red Hat's Cloud Computing site, pricing for RHEL on Amazon's EC2 starts at $19 per month per customer, plus additional bandwidth and storage fees. Pricing for JBoss Enterprise Application Platform on EC2 starts at $119 per month per customer, plus $1.21 for every deployed server, also with additional bandwidth and storage fees.

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