Got platform? Red Hat tips its cap to struggling entrepreneurs

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Open source software can be a godsend to a struggling startup. The resourceful office manager can find spreadsheet and word-processing programs, accounting, payroll and tax programs, system backup and security networking software ... all for free. Now, thanks to a new program from Red Hat, two-penny software entrepreneurs can get cloud platform service for free, too.


Announced in late October, Red Hat's new program is designed to help startups launch with less cost while avoiding infrastructure hassles along the way. The program, dubbed Openshift Startup, hopes to provide infrastructure, platform and support to fledgling SaaS businesses that don't have the capital to set up a network of their own. The flexibility of cloud hosting makes this a no-lose situation for Red Hat: If the business uses less infrastructure than expected, Red Hat's system turns its computing power to other endeavors. If the business becomes quickly popular, the system allocates more resources.


In short, Red Hat isn't gambling much against what they stand to gain: a whole crop of new businesses that will (hopefully) soon need the paid services that Red Hat provides. Or, from the press release, "as the startups grow their service, they have the option to move their service on-premise or on to their customers' private clouds powered by OpenShift Enterprise."


Since it was founded in the mid 1990s, Red Hat Software has grown into an IT and certification giant using a somewhat counter-intuitive business strategy. The company unabashedly refers to itself as "the world's leading provider of open-source solutions," and primarily makes its money from subscription customer support. It's not bluster, either — Red Hat's Linux OS systems have been showered with praise, and in 2012 it became the first open-source company to make more than $1 billion in a single year.


Red Hat's almost dogmatic belief in the superiority of open source has led the company to support cloud software called Open Stack, which Red Hat slyly compares to Linux. If anyone were going to offer free cloud hosting, it would have to be Red Hat.


The Platform as a Service (PaaS) offered by Red Hat is specifically geared toward Software On-Demand startups, businesses that develop cloud service applications and provide software as a service. Everything is powered by Red Hat's OpenShift platform, which of course is open source. OpenShift supports a variety of languages including Python, Ruby, Perl, Node.js, Java and PHP, and includes a "complete set of developer tools," according to the program page.


OpenShift is competing with some big dogs in the PaaS game, including Microsoft Azure, Google App Engine and the perennial powerhouse, Amazon Web Services. With any luck, this new venture will give them a leg up on the competition.


SaaS entrepreneurs interested in OpenShift Startup can apply online using a one-page form Red Hat provides. Any startup accepted to the program will gain access to Red Hat's Global Support Services, Red Hat's Marketing and Operations teams, and Red Hat's Customer Enablement. Additionally, accepted startups will receive promotional credit within OpenShift and will have their applications listed in the OpenShift Application Gallery.


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About the Author
David Telford

David Telford is a short-attention-span renaissance man and university student. His current project is the card game MatchTags, which you can find on Facebook and Kickstarter.