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How Many Open Source Projects Makes a Cloud?

For Linux vendor Red Hat (NYSE:RHT), the cloud isn't about any one particular project, it's about a combination of multiple open source projects.

At the core of Red Hat's cloud strategy is its Cloud Foundations effort which extends Red Hat's infrastructure offerings for the cloud.

"Cloud Foundations was named that for a reason," Scott Crenshaw, VP and GM of the Cloud Business Unit at Red Hat told InternetNews.com. "The evolution to improving IT infrastructure is a continuous process and you're never really done."

Crenshaw noted that the cloud includes virtualization and management infrastructure as well as automation. He added that as enterprises get more experienced with virtualization, their needs and wants are continuing to expand.

"At last count the expansion of Cloud Foundations comprises 65 open source projects," Crenshaw said. "So there is a huge amount of work that we're contributing, we're pulling some work from the community, but overwhelmingly this is a contribution on a very broad footprint."

Crenshaw added that the open projects span areas ranging from application management, to virtual machine management to deltacloud which allows for management of clouds from multiple vendors. He stressed that Cloud Foundations is comprehensive as well as open.

Red Hat isn't the only open source vendor pushing cloud technologies. The multi-vendor OpenStack effort, originally started by Rackspace and NASA has also been gaining momentum.

"The scope of what we've already contributed in terms of the amount of code and the breadth of functionality is very much beyond what we've seen anyone else contribute," Crenshaw said. "We give a lot and other participants give and it helps our end users too."

At the upcoming Red Hat Summit event, Crenshaw noted that Red Hat engineers will be providing more details on the 65 discrete projects that help to enable the cloud.

While open source projects are key to Red Hat's Cloud Foundations, there is also at least one effort as part of the mix that isn't yet open source. Back in November of 2010, Red Hat acquired cloud tools vendor Makara. The Makara technology enables enterprises to deploy applications to the cloud and scale up or down as demands dictate.

"When we acquired Makara, we said it was our intention to make that technology open source and we've been moving down that path," Crenshaw said.

Crenshaw noted that Makara enhances other open source projects that Red Hat was already working on. He added that the Red Hat's teams are working towards a release that combines the Makara and Red Hat technology together.

There are still a number of challenges when it comes to deploying to the cloud. Crenshaw noted that understanding which class of workloads can be deployed to the cloud is an important step.

"It takes customers as long or longer to figure that out as it does to select and deploy the technology," Crenshaw said.

He added that last year there were a lot of firms exploring the cloud with proof of concepts and test case. For 2011, Crenshaw expects to see some really good production deployments that take advantage of the experience that customers have gained.

"The move to the cloud is a journey, it's an evolution of enterprise IT architecture," Crenshaw said. "It's not something you magically deploy overnight, press a button and all of a sudden your users have changed their habits and know what to do."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.