CoreOS acquisition burnishes Red Hat containers profile

Most IT shops don't deploy containers in production, but more might be enticed by the addition of CoreOS tools to Red Hat's OpenShift.

More companies will have Red Hat containers on their short lists as they evaluate Kubernetes tools, thanks to a $250 million acquisition of CoreOS this week.

Red Hat's OpenShift is one of the most widely deployed Kubernetes container management platforms among enterprise users already familiar with Red Hat Enterprise Linux, but CoreOS tools such as its Tectonic Kubernetes distribution will strengthen OpenShift. Tectonic focuses on Kubernetes infrastructure automation, with an update channel that can automatically apply rolling Kubernetes cluster upgrades. An integration with HashiCorp’s Terraform infrastructure as code tool last year added automated multi-cloud Kubernetes deployments.

"Red Hat has Ansible, but doesn't really have that great of an operational toolkit yet, and Tectonic could be that," said James Anderson, solutions architect for a manufacturing company on the East Coast.

It's unclear whether or how Red Hat will integrate CoreOS' eponymous operating system  in its portfolio along with Atomic and SELinux, but the stripped-down OS could better secure container images in OpenShift.

I expect a lot of Red Hat's provided container images [will] be based on CoreOS for the smaller footprint … [which] means smaller attack surface and increased security for Red Hat customers.
Sean Morsesoftware engineer, Vistaprint

"I expect a lot of Red Hat's provided container images [will] be based on CoreOS for the smaller footprint," said Sean Morse, software engineer at printing services company Cimpress (formerly Vistaprint) in Lexington, Mass. "A smaller footprint means smaller attack surface, and increased security for Red Hat customers."

Vistaprint has yet to deploy containers in production. It has, however, evaluated Amazon Web Services' EC2 Container Service as well as a self-managed Kubernetes cluster on AWS using the kops utility. The CoreOS acquisition will prompt a second look at Red Hat's OpenShift, Morse said.

"The tooling Red Hat built out for [integrated development environments] makes doing testing, building and deployments far easier," he said. "It's not that you can't do the same things [on your own], but you would have to make your own tools around Kubernetes to get the same user experience."

CoreOS employs some of Kubernetes' key contributors, and this Red Hat acquisition cements a commanding position over the direction of Kubernetes upstream, Morse added.

Future uncertain for CoreOS users

The CoreOS acquisition is good news for customers interested in Red Hat containers, but early adopters of CoreOS container management tools may experience some tense moments in the coming months as Red Hat rationalizes its overlapping product portfolio. Red Hat stated in an FAQ that it will honor all existing user agreements with CoreOS, but did not indicate its long-term plans to integrate CoreOS products.

For starters, CoreOS Tectonic and OpenShift represent two distinct Kubernetes distributions. The future is especially murky for CoreOS's rkt because Red Hat already supports multiple container runtimes, such as the Open Container Initiative (OCI) and Container Runtime Interface using Open Container Initiative runtimes (CRI-O).

"I don't know if there's room for rkt," said Gary Chen, analyst with IDC. "We'll have to wait and see what happens to that technology, whether it survives in some form or disappears."

The writing is also on the wall for Tectonic users, Chen said. OpenShift and Tectonic are both built on OCI and Kubernetes, so migration between the two tools shouldn't be difficult, but OpenShift includes platform as a service features that aren't a part of Tectonic.

"At some point, Red Hat is definitely not going to keep two products," Chen said. "They're going to have to pick one, and how disruptive that will be is still unknown."


Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for TechTarget's Cloud and DevOps Media Group. Write to her at [email protected] or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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