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Which freaking PaaS should I use?

Andrew C. Oliver and Lifford Pinto | Oct. 10, 2012
Most of the buzz around the cloud has centered on infrastructure as a service (IaaS). However, IaaS is no longer good enough. Sure, you can forgo buying servers and run everything virtually on Amazon's EC2 server farm. So what? You still have to manage it, and to do that you'll have a growing IT bureaucracy. Companies that want to focus on writing their code and not have to think about application servers at all are now looking to platform as a service (PaaS).

Red Hat OpenShift

Red Hat's PaaS offering, called OpenShift, is aimed at Node.js, Ruby, Python, PHP, Perl, and Java developers. OpenShift combines the full Java EE stack with newer technologies such as Node.js and MongoDB.

Differentiators. OpenShift runs Java applications on the JBoss Enterprise Application Platform (JBoss EAP), Red Hat's commercial distribution of JBoss. Red Hat considers Java Enterprise Edition 6 (Java EE 6) to be a compelling differentiator, along with allowing developers to choose the best tool for the job, whether it's Java EE 6, Ruby, Python, PHP, Node.js, Perl, or even a custom language runtime.

In the coming months, Red Hat will be launching the first commercial, paid, supported tier of the OpenShift service. Red Hat said it will also release an on-premises version for enterprises that can't run in the public cloud due to security, governance, and compliance restrictions.

Lock-in. "No lock-in" was one of the foundational principles used in the design and development of OpenShift, according to Red Hat. The company noted that OpenShift uses no proprietary APIs, languages, data stores, infrastructure, or databases, but is built with pure vanilla open source language runtimes and frameworks. This means, for example, that an application built with Python and MySQL on OpenShift will seamlessly port to Python and MySQL running on a stand-alone server or in another cloud (assuming the language versions are the same). Likewise, a JBoss Java EE 6 application running on OpenShift can be moved to any JBoss server.

Security. Red Hat publicly lists OpenShift's security compliance information. The company said that Red Hat's Security Response Team (the same team that continuously monitors Linux for vulnerabilities) is involved with the design and implementation of OpenShift and that the OpenShift OnLine PaaS service is continuously patched and updated by the OpenShift Operations team at the instruction of the Security team. Red Hat also noted that OpenShift runs SELinux, the security subsystem originally developed by the NSA.

Who's using it? Red Hat said a wide cross-section of companies are using OpenShift today, ranging from hobbyist developers to technology startups building their businesses in the cloud to systems integrators and service providers to Fortune 500 enterprises. The company noted that classic legacy applications that are running on mainframes or other legacy platforms are not great candidates for migration to a PaaS.

Because OpenShift is considered a "developer preview" -- Red Hat's term for beta or alpha -- the company didn't feel comfortable releasing any information about existing deployments.

How did it do? It was a lot more work than we expected to get Granny deployed to OpenShift. Swapping between the command-line deployment tool and the Web-based provisioning and management console lacked the user-friendliness of CloudBees or Cloud Foundry. The Red Hat Developer Studio plug-ins didn't work with our application out of the box. Ultimately, we had to edit a lot more descriptor files both inside and outside of the application than we did with other solutions.


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