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Red Hat to take on Microsoft with .NET hosted service

Challenging Microsoft’s Windows Azure on its own turf, Red Hat is ramping up services that would offer Microsoft .NET and SQL Server capabilities on its OpenShift platform as a service (PaaS).

Code to enable the Microsoft services is being provided by Uhuru Software, a company started by a number of former Microsoft executives and engineers that specializes in rendering Microsoft software as cloud services.

The Microsoft services will not be available immediately, and Red Hat has not set a date for when the capabilities will be ready, either on OpenShift itself, or as part of OpenShift Enterprise, a package for running OpenShift services within an enterprise, said Joe Fernandes, who leads product management for OpenShift.

When it does go live, customers of Red Hat’s OpenShift PaaS will be able to use copies, or “cartridges” in Red Hat’s parlance, of the Microsoft .NET runtime and Microsoft SQL Server database system.

Both will run on top of Windows Server. Windows will run either as a virtual machine, or directly on the servers natively. Administrators can interact with the Microsoft cartridges through a standard command line SSH (Secure Shell).

When these services are available, OpenShift users will be able to join .NET and SQL Server capabilities with other non-Microsoft services within the same workspace. A developer could, for instance, use a .NET cartridge to run an application’s front end, and link it to a MySQL cartridge that would provide the database services for that application. The entire application could then be managed through the OpenShift console.

While Microsoft itself offers .NET and SQL Server as a service on its own Windows Azure cloud, along with many open source technologies, OpenShift could offer a few advantages over Azure, Morgan said. For one, the OpenShift code can be deployed in the enterprise, allowing organizations to set up hybrid clouds that span across Red Hat’s OpenShift service and their own internal services.

Also, Azure does not yet offer Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) as an option (though it offers other Linux distributions).

The OpenShift services will use cgroups, a feature built into the Linux kernel, to ensure each service gets its allotment of CPU and memory resources. They will also use the SELinux (Security Enhanced Linux) module to ensure each service is securely isolated from other services running on the same machine.

The Uhuru code for OpenShift is open source, and is being developed on OpenShift Origin, the Red Hat open source code base that the company uses to run its cloud services.

The Uhuru code still needs to be tested across a wide user base, and a few features still need to be developed within the software, before it will be commercially ready, Morgan said.

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