Red Hat attacks cloud-app gap

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Red Hat’s new virtual storage appliance takes aim at a knotty problem for IT shops: Taking old-but-still-running legacy applications to Amazon’s public cloud.

When companies put workloads into Amazon Web Services (AWS), it’s usually all about new applications — older applications must be architected for the cloud and many companies won’t bother.

The Red Hat Virtual Storage Appliance for Amazon Web Services — based on Gluster technology — adds POSIX compliance. That means that it can take on legacy Unix applications. (POSIX is a standard that governs how applications and operating systems interact, assuring that an application written for one POSIX OS will run on other POSIX OSes. Most Unix applications are POSIX-compliant.)

“The cloud has not been POSIX compliant — AWS, AT&T, Microsoft are all great cloud companies but these older applications must be rewritten to use these clouds,” said Tom Trainer, storage product marketing manager at Red Hat.

The NAS appliance lets companies aggregate their Amazon Elastic Block Storage (EBS) and Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances into a virtualized storage pool that can handle even these legacy Unix applications, Red Hat said. For this Red Hat-branded release, it also subbed in Red Hat Enterprise Linux for Centos as the core operating system. (Red Hat bought Gluster in October.)

Not all Unix is the same

But there is legacy and then there is legacy.  Red Hat is talking here only of Intel-based Unix applications, not Unix applications that run on RISC systems–which tend to be older. While newer web-centric companies may not see a need for this capability, there are still tons of these Unix applications running workloads, said Bernd Harzog, principal analyst with The Virtualization Practice. “The installed base of Unix servers across Solaris, HP-UX, and AIX on non-Intel platforms is massive. None of that stuff goes to the cloud easily,” he said.

Moving existing older applications to AWS will come down to a cost-benefit analysis, agreed Forrester Research analyst Vanessa Alvarez. “If Red Hat can make it easier, that’s great, but it depends on whether it makes economic sense to do so. Is it going to be resource intensive to move these apps or to re-architect them to fit the cloud? Or are organizations looking to move away from these apps [altogether]?” she asked.

Other companies are attacking the problem as well. This week startup Pneuron announced its take on the task of extending the viable life of legacy applications to private or public clouds.

Given Red Hat’s leadership in enterprise Linux, it makes sense for it to help customers more gracefully move their applications and extend their data center to the public cloud. Whether actually doing so makes sense will vary by customer.

Feature photo courtesy of Flickr user vaxomatic

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