Now that Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform is available, The VAR Guy has some advice for the open source company: Red Hat (RHT) needs to hijack OpenStack and the open source cloud conversation -- for the good of channel partners. Here's why.

As The VAR Guy's Chris Tozzi reported earlier this week: Red Hat will be building a partner program around its OpenStack offering, beginning with "a small set of pilot solution provider and systems integration partners in select geographies" and scaling up from there.

That's fantastic news as OpenStack enters its third chapter.

History Lesson

The story so far involves...

Chapter 1Rackspace (RAX) and NASA dominated this chapter. The two organizations were widely viewed as OpenStack pioneers -- educating everyone and anyone possible about the open source platform.

Chapter 2: This chapter started in September 2012, when the OpenStack Foundation launched. The move attracted scores of partners, developers and even potential customers to the discussion table.

The OpenStack ecosystem reached a tipping point during this chapter -- but problems also tend to crop up during this type of group collaboration stage. Big vendors like Dell, HP and IBM each vowed to launch OpenStack-based cloud, but Dell has since abandoned that plan. And numerous OpenStack distributions -- like the early days of Linux -- are popping up. Customer choice is great -- but not when too many options freeze customer decisions.

Meanwhile, Rackspace is still very vocal about OpenStack but there are three problems:

  • Wall Street is worried about the company's slowing growth.
  • Rackspace isn't in much of a position to support corporate IT departments that deploy OpenStack on-premises.
  • Rackspace must also compete with other CSPs that offer OpenStack public clouds.

Chapter 3: During this stage, we'll see expansion and consolidation at the same time. More companies will enter the OpenStack market. More customer deployments will occur. But ultimately, we'll see the number of different OpenStack distributions  consolidate. And that's a good thing. 

Deja Vu

Remember all the Linux hype from the late 1990s? Only Red Hat really managed to build itself into a $1 billion open source business. And alternatives like SUSE and Canonical's Ubuntu have carved out nice market niches for themselves.

At the same time, channel partners (VARs, integrators, cloud services providers) have worked closely with Red Hat. And CIO surveys over the past decade have widely praised Red Hat's ability to deliver an ROI to businesses.

Now, Red Hat OpenStack

With a ton of hard work and a little bit of luck, Red Hat can likely repeat that Linux success in the OpenStack market. Equally important, Red Hat will extend its channel partner program to promote OpenStack as a public or private cloud solution -- setting up VARs to generate consulting dollars and CSPs to generate recurring revenues.

That's exactly what OpenStack needs.