Red Hat is getting set to take the wraps off the source code for OpenShift. The company announced today that it will release the OpenShift code at the Open Cloud Conference to take place in Sunnyvale, Calif., from April 30 through May 3. At the conference Red Hat will provide the code for its Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offering, and showing developers how to get it up and running on top of OpenStack.

OpenShift came from Red Hat's acquisition of Makara in late 2010. OpenShift itself was unveiled in May of last year as "a PaaS that would delight developers who build on open source."

The fact that Red Hat is releasing the code to OpenShift isn't really a shock, it was just a matter of timing. Historically, Red Hat has released all of its products as open source and it had committed to doing so with OpenShift. The company has a long history of buying technology and eventually releasing it as open source, but that hasn't kept competitors from questioning its intentions with OpenShift.

That Red Hat is opening the doors to the OpenShift code helps not only keep its street cred as an open source company, it provides an opportunity for the company to garner contributions outside its own engineering team. It also means that OpenShift customers don't need to worry about lock-in, they can deploy the PaaS on another provider or internally if they decide they don't want to host on OpenShift.com at some point.

Why the delay between buying Makara and releasing the code? As Issac Roth, Red Hat's PaaS Master, commented today following the release "it takes a little longer at Red Hat, because they know so much."

What that means, says Roth, is that Red Hat has done the proprietary-to-open-source dance a number of times. They have seen most problems that can crop up, and have learned to anticipate and head them off when possible.

Roth also says that some pieces of OpenShift needed to be re-written because they were either "incompatible" with being released as open source, or simply weren't easy to work with.

Some components of OpenShift.com, says Roth, won't be open sourced -- but they're trivial. For example, he says that the sign-up page on OpenShift.com is not going to be released, but it's pretty specific to Red Hat's implementation. Anything you need to run OpenShift as a PaaS should be available after the release.

The fact that Red Hat is going to be demoing OpenShift on OpenStack might explain, in part, the company's recent interest in OpenStack development. Red Hat has been contributing to OpenStack pretty heavily of late, even though it hasn't officially joined the project or announced any plans to offer products based on OpenStack.

Details of the Release

Roth says that OpenShift will be available on GitHub, under the Apache License, when it's released in April. The reasoning for that is that it needed to be compatible with other projects in use with OpenShift.

OpenShift currently supports Java, Ruby, PHP, Perl, Python and Node.js applications and integrates with Git for publishing apps to the cloud. Red Hat's OpenShift hosted platform runs on top of Amazon Web Services, but the release should allow for customers to deploy an OpenShift instance anywhere they like.

Roth says that the workshop will show developers how to get OpenShift up and running on OpenStack, but it "doesn't have a particular dependency on the IaaS." They targeted OpenStack first because "in your own lab, you're going to want to deploy it on open source" for testing and Red Hat is (of course) biased towards open source.

But Roth says that's the "initial phase," where "not a lot has gone into making it consumable." He does see a possibility of customers deploying OpenShift internally on top of proprietary platforms or with proprietary software instead of open source. For instance, Roth says he could see a company using a proprietary database instead of PostgreSQL or MongoDB. If users want to use a different hypervisor, they should be able to do so.

Commercial Plans and Further Out

The next logical question is if, or when, Red Hat will offer commercial support for OpenShift outside of its hosted PaaS on OpenShift.com. Roth says that Red Hat plans to announce its pricing for OpenShift.com this summer: "We have some stuff going on around that, but no real plan yet."

My guess is that Red Hat will, ultimately, offer commercial support for on-premise versions of OpenShift. Roth talked a lot about the fact that OpenShift being open source means that customers don't have to worry about lock-in the way they do with other PaaS offerings. However, being able to put together your own PaaS without any possibility of commercial support probably won't be very reassuring to Red Hat's enterprise customers.

It's worth mentioning that OpenShift won't be the only player in the open source PaaS market. VMware's Cloud Foundry, for example, is also offered as a hosted PaaS as well as an open source project. So Red Hat isn't first to the party, and it's going to be facing some pretty hefty competition. And success of OpenShift is fairly important for Red Hat as well, given that the company needs to keep expanding its successful product offerings beyond its enterprise Linux distribution and JBoss.

But it's good news for companies considering PaaS deployments, and should make for an interesting year in the PaaS market.