Red Hat + Microsoft: To boldly go where no partnership has gone before – Part 1

CLH-MonitorGlow-HorizontalThis post is brought to you by Command Line Heroes, an original podcast from Red Hat.

Captain’s log. Stardate 4513.3.

The crew of the Command Line Heroes podcast asked me to talk about the Red Hat-Microsoft relationship. I can’t help but sense a little irony in the title “Command Line Heroes.” When I started my career in the early 1980s, everyone in our industry was a “command line hero”—as graphical user interfaces (GUIs) were still in the early stages and not yet widely available. At that time, being able to use the vi editor in full screen mode to edit files, or to play Snake and Wumpus on a PDP 11-45 with BSD 4.2, was considered cool. Looking in the rearview mirror, I can’t help but be reminded of Karr’s famous quote “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” (the more things change, the more they the stay the same).  

Fast forward to early 2018 and computing environments continue to shift towards a hybrid mix of cloud (public, private) and on-premise (physical, virtual) platforms to support the ever-changing demands of application workloads. The freedom and flexibility to select what is right for your needs is the norm today, and the days of vendor lock-in are over.

In this post, I’ve taken an unorthodox approach by using Star Trek analogies to describe the scope, complexity, and success of our partnership, but that is the point: using conventional approaches to solve unconventional challenges is an exercise in futility. As the Borg would say “resistance is futile” and Microsoft has fully embraced the open source model. By partnering with Red Hat, the leader in open source technologies, the Red Hat-Microsoft partnership continues to this day to “boldly go where no partnership has gone before.

My role as technical partner/program manager requires alternating between Scotty in the engine room, Kirk at the helm, and all points in between. As such, I have a unique perspective on the partnership.

Partnership overview

The first generation…

(Captain’s log. Stardate 93445.95.)

In November 2015, Red Hat and Microsoft entered into a joint, strategic partnership to offer Red Hat® solutions on Microsoft Azure. A partnership that would have once been deemed unimaginable was formed in response to what our mutual customers demanded—the ability to deploy, run, and scale workloads on Red Hat products across a hybrid mix of cloud and on-premise environments. As Microsoft’s Azure strategy was evolving, it was clear that Red Hat’s open source solutions would play a vital role in meeting the needs of our customers, developers, and partners.

If you were to read the initial announcement materials, the partnership was described on terms that James T. Kirk might use when addressing Starfleet Command:

  1. Integrated enterprise-grade support spanning hybrid environments
  2. Red Hat solutions available natively to Microsoft Azure customers
  3. Collaboration on .NET for a new generation of application development capabilities
  4. Unified workload management across hybrid cloud deployments

What does this mean to you as a developer, sysadmin, or devops engineer? If we shift our focus away from Kirk at the helm of the USS Enterprise (NCC 1701) to Scotty’s view from the engine room, then change from a Starship to an earth-bound house, the partnership would like more like this:media-20180117Okay, I admit that it’s not as cool as Star Trek, but at least now we can get a somewhat more terrestrial, real-world (no fake-worlds here!) view of what each engagement area provides to the partnership, and more importantly, to you.

1. Integrated support

Prime directive: “Provide Red Hat and Microsoft customers with an integrated support experience.”

The integrated support initiative is about providing our mutual customers with cross-platform, cross-company support spanning the Microsoft and Red Hat offerings. To achieve this, Red Hat and Microsoft implemented a joint ticketing system so that customers can open support requests through either Red Hat Support or Microsoft Support and the correct routing occurs in a seamless, fully integrated manner.

In addition, the integrated support initiative also provides regional coverage as well as co-located support teams. Red Hat has dedicated technical account managers (TAMs) on-site at Microsoft’s Redmond campus to support the needs of our mutual customer base.  

Spock’s summary: “Fascinating—this integrated support initiative is highly unique and unlike any previous partnership in the public cloud galaxy!”

2. Certified Cloud and Service Provider (CCSP)

Prime directive: “Microsoft Azure joins Red Hat’s CCSP program as a certified cloud provider.”

Red Hat’s CCSP program lets cloud partners and service providers run Red Hat Enterprise Linux® applications and workloads on their public or private cloud environments. By joining the Red Hat CCSP program, Microsoft Azure joins the hundreds of other cloud service providers supported by Red Hat.

The following products are available through the CCSP program. These may be available in multitenant, dedicated, or internal use offerings:

  • Red Hat OpenStack® Platform
  • Red Hat OpenShift
  • Red Hat CloudForms
  • Red Hat Storage
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux
  • Red Hat Satellite

Under the terms of Red Hat’s CCSP program, Microsoft customers have two entry points for deploying workloads in Microsoft Azure:

  • Red Hat Cloud Access allows existing Red Hat subscribers to bring their own virtual machine images to run in Microsoft Azure. Microsoft Azure customers can also take advantage of the full value of Red Hat’s application platforms, including Red Hat JBoss® Enterprise Application Platform (EAP), Red Hat JBoss Web Server, Red Hat Gluster Storage and Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform.
  • Red Hat On-Demand (also known as “pay-as-you-go”) offers customers the ability to deploy Red Hat Enterprise Linux images from the Azure Marketplace. On-Demand images are fully supported by Red Hat and include a Red Hat subscription in the runtime (consumption) costs.

McCoy’s summary: “Damn it, Jim—there are over 100 Red Hat (On-Demand) images available in the Azure Marketplace, ranging from Red Hat Enterprise Linux (6.7-6.9, 7.1-7.4) through SAP HANA® and SAP HANA for Business Applications!”

The last four areas are the ISV portions of the partnership and are engineering aspects of the Red Hat-Microsoft partnership.

1. .NET enablement

Prime directive: “Enable .NET Core to fully operate and run on the latest major versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Linux Atomic Host, and Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform.”

Microsoft released the preview of .NET Core on Linux in April 2015, and from the start Red Hat and Microsoft have worked closely to provide developers with access to .NET technologies across Red Hat offerings, including Red Hat OpenShift and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Today, Red Hat Enterprise Linux is the primary development and reference operating system for .NET Core on Linux.

The initial release of .NET Core 1.0 for Red Hat Enterprise Linux became available in June 2016 and .NET Core 2.0 for Red Hat Enterprise Linux was released in August 2017. Maintenance and security updates for both release streams continue as needed today.

❇ Checkov’s summary: “It was invented by a little old lady from Lenningrad! Today .NET Core is the only Microsoft product that Red Hat builds in-house from source.

Red Hat makes .NET available as both an (rpm-based) Red Hat Software Collection for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and a container image.”

2. Red Hat CloudForms enablement

Prime directive: “Develop the capability to manage Azure VMs, Red Hat CloudForms, and to Interoperate with Microsoft’s System Center for Virtual Machine (SCVMM).”

Red Hat CloudForms is Red Hat’s premiere multi-cloud management platform that offers customers the ability to manage Red Hat Enterprise Linux on both Hyper-V and Microsoft Azure. In addition to providing unified workload management across hybrid and multi-cloud environments, Red Hat CloudForms also integrates with Red Hat Ansible Automation.

The Red Hat CloudForms 4.0 release (December 2015) provided the initial enablement with Azure image discovery and provisioning. Subsequent releases—Red Hat CloudForms 4.1 (June 2016) and CloudForms 4.2 (January 2017)—allows many new and enhanced capabilities such as private image provisioning, event handling, metrics, and orchestration stacks.

❇ Uhura’s summary: “Although the bulk of the Azure enablement work has been completed, new  features and updates continue as needed to support customer our eeds. Pending proper Starfleet comms channels!”

3. Hypervisor certification/support

Prime directive: “Provide interoperability of Red Hat Enterprise Linux guests on Hyper-V and Windows Server, and Red Hat hypervisor-based products.”

4. Red Hat Enterprise Linux development

Prime directive: “Collaborate at technical development and product management levels to facilitate Red Hat Enterprise Linux running on Hyper-V for X86-64.”

Collectively, we often refer to these last two engagement areas as “Virtualization”, encompassing the joint certification, development, and support of each other’s guests (Windows, Red Hat Enterprise Linux) on each other’s hypervisors. This includes both Red Hat Enterprise Linux on Hyper-V and Windows on KVM, and the ongoing updates and testing of the Windows Azure Linux Agent (WALinuxAgent).

❇ Scotty’s summary: “Aye, the haggis is in the fire for sure but when it comes to virtualization what most folks don’t realize is that Red Hat and Microsoft have been working in these areas as part of Microsoft’s Server Virtualization Validation Program (SVVP) program since 2007.”

Read part two.  

Mark Heslin has been the technical partner/program manager for the Red Hat-Microsoft partnership since July 2015. He joined Red Hat in 2010 as a member of the systems engineering team with a primary focus on Red Hat-Microsoft interoperability and integration projects. Mark has numerous published reference architectures and technology briefs still in use today. Outside of work Mark leads hiking trips, and he’s a self-admitted guitar nerd and sci-fi fan.

The OpenStack® Word Mark and OpenStack Logo are either registered trademarks / service marks or trademarks / service marks of the OpenStack Foundation, in the United States and other countries and are used with the OpenStack Foundation’s permission. We are not affiliated with, endorsed or sponsored by the OpenStack Foundation or the OpenStack community.

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