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Middleware goes up the stack, heads toward cloud

Red Hat’s JBoss World 2011 in Boston last week presented a unique view on some of the issues that press upon CTOs, software architects and development managers today. Of course, you would expect a unique view, given the company’s distinctive open source software lineage.

At the event, the company announced an OpenShift Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) cloud offering that supports open source plug ins such as MongoDB, CouchDB  and Enterprise DB. It announced a CloudForms Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud offering that works with various virtual servers, and public clouds such as Amazon, IBM and NTT Communications. It also launched JBoss Enterprise Data Grid, a commercial version of the Infinispan data grid project, which it said it would bring before the Java Community Process.

The new data grid is yet another sign that Red Hat is determinedly moving up the middleware stack enhancing its basic application server with SOA, BPM, rules and more. It is not alone by any means in contributing to open source – it is, however, riding that trend for all it is worth.

These days, Red Hat, like others, is grappling to find better means of middleware automation. The complex stacks are at issue. Architects and developers these days are pumping out complex, high-value middleware systems – but getting these systems into production is proving to be a bottleneck in itself.

The notion of ”DevOps” collaboration is heard repeatedly. Many early Java app server implementations are getting long in the tooth. As users consider middleware alternatives, ease-of-deployment will be a consideration.

As a senior architect told Red Hat JBoss World 2011 attendees: ”The biggest challenge today is how [to] rapidly provision applications.”

More and more developer time is consumed deploying app servers, app frameworks and the like – and more and more operations time is consumed chasing down issues with these complex run times, and the bigger the enterprise, the bigger the problem.

Open source allows most any smart developer to download some software and build something clever. But getting that software into the enterprise data center is another story. Certainly, that was an element at play when SpringSource sold itself to VMware a couple of years ago. IBM’s big software management portfolio has come to encompass every aspect of WebSphere, and it makes Big Blue a more daunting middleware competitor.

Will PaaS and IaaS clouds ease middleware deployment? That seems to be a big part of the cloud push. If middleware deployment is not made easier, it may encumber cloud adoption. As Red Hat seemed to show at the Boston event, fielding PaaS and Iaas cloud offerings is beginning to look like a prerequisite for staying in the game.

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