OpenShift: Red Hat answers to VMware Cloud Foundry

It was in the air: with more and more movements in the cloud computing space it was only a matter of time before Red Hat released its own solution.
The (self appointed) World’s Open Source Leader released OpenShift, a Platform as a Service cloud meant for developers of a number of languages, including PHP, Java, Ruby and Python.

OpenShift supports both a light model (Express) and an enterprise grade model (Flex), both currently in beta and scheduled for final launch soon: in the meantime they are both free, their final prices undisclosed.
Red Hat decided to leverage Amazon AWS service as its hosting platform instead of managing its own hardware, but the level of interaction with the actual virtual servers depends on the platform model: Flex will actually run inside the user’s Amazon system, while Express will leverage Red Hat’ shared systems.

OpenShift PaaS schema

PHP, Ruby and Python applications can run in the Express model, a small scale system where the application can be run in the cloud quickly, even through well known and widely adopted tools for version control like Git. One of the demos showcasing the platform is a very interesting deployment of the common and powerful enterprise grade Drupal CMS.

PHP applications can also benefit of the Flex offer, the only one available for the Java language, a powerful, scalable and full fledged platform cloud which brings complete control of the application in the hands of the developer. Applications can be deployed on middleware components such as JBoss and Tomcat, and the platform provides valuable features including versioning, monitoring and auto-scaling: leveraging this enterprise grade components and the tight integration with common development framework can be the winning move here.
Flex also provides shell-level access (i.e. the command line of the hosting server) in a dedicated environment, while Express machines are explicitly multi-tenant: an Amazon AWS account is required to use Flex.

One of the most interesting promises of the platform is the not-yet-released Power delivery model: OpenShift Power can deploy applications to the cloud that are written to Linux (i.e. written in C, or using many binary components) and anything that builds on Linux. This includes custom, legacy applications with no web frontend at all. This is a very peculiar feature which can be very interesting for large enterprises with legacy code, but we will have to wait until its release to see if it keeps it promises.

Noticeably, while VMware Cloud Foundry is entirely Open Source, some parts of OpenShift are not (like the user interface): this is however well in the tradition of Red Hat and not a big surprise in itself.