February 18, 2018

Red Hat moved to expand the intellectual capital it can bring to bear regarding containers and the Kubernetes platform by acquiring CoreOS for $250 million. The two companies expect to close the deal today.

Ashesh Badani, vice president and general manager for the OpenShift platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment at Red Hat, says the combined company still needs to work through the overall product strategy. But technologies developed for CoreOS that address everything from Docker runtime and storage software to container registry software will be part of a larger Red Hat hybrid cloud computing strategy anchored on Kubernetes.

Both Red Hat and CoreOS have been independently pursuing hybrid cloud computing strategies based on Kubernetes. Red Hat will incorporate many of the ideas CoreOS encapsulated in a Google Infrastructure for Everyone Else (GIFEE) strategy delivered in the form of a Tectonic platform—which sought to commercialize technologies such as Kubernetes that have their roots in the software Google developed—to drive its webscale operations.

CoreOS as of late has been especially focused on automating updates of the Kubernetes platform and the rest of the software stack that gets deployed on top of Kubernetes.

CoreOS CEO Alex Polvi says the two companies will combine their contributions to various open source projects, including the rkt container that CoreOS developed as an alternative to Docker. The Cloud Native Computing Foundation has since taken over control of rckt, of which CoreOS is now only one of several contributors. Both Red Hat and CoreOS have also been focusing on serverless computing frameworks that promise to provide yet another form of abstraction of IT infrastructure using containers as the base atomic unit of computing.

Red Hat has been pursuing a container strategy that seeks to unify PaaS and emerging container-as-a-service (CaaS) environments by providing an OpenShift environment that runs on top of Kubernetes and can be deployed on-premises or in a public cloud. At the same time, there are many organizations that prefer to deploy Kubernetes on top of virtual machine platforms such as OpenStack or on bare-metal servers. In acquiring CoreOS, Red Hat is now making it clear that it will support Kubernetes both within the context of a PaaS or on virtual and physical machines. Which platform to choose will come down to the level of abstraction desired by the IT organization and the individual characteristics of the application.

The acquisition also has significant implications for lightweight distributions of Linux that are widely used in in IT environments that have adopted Kubernetes. CoreOS has developed its own lightweight distribution of Linux, while Red Hat has made available lightweight distributions of both Linux and its general purpose Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) platform.

As containers and Kubernetes become more mainstream and containers emerge as the foundation for a new era of computing based on microservices, no doubt there will be other major mergers and acquisitions as vendors continue to jockey for position.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.