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As a framework for managing instances of cloud computing, there’s a lot momentum behind OpenStack. However, as a set of products that the average IT organization could deploy today, there’s still a lot of work to do in terms of turning OpenStack into an opportunity for the channel.

At the recent Red Hat Summit 2013 conference, Red Hat took a significant step toward making that happen with the launch of a new Red Hat OpenStack Cloud Infrastructure Partner Network. At launch, the new Red Hat early-adopter program for its implementation of OpenStack boasts more than 100 organizations. In addition, the company also announced a Red Hat OpenStack Certification and the Red Hat Certified Solution Marketplace, a directory of technologies and products that have been certified by Red Hat.

According to Radhesh Balakrishnan, general manager for virtualization at Red Hat, the goal driving the formation of the network is to get partners familiar with the company’s implementation of OpenStack on top of the Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) that Red Hat developed for its Linux environments.

But Balakrishnan is the first to concede that OpenStack is not ready for prime time in the enterprise. Instead, Red Hat wants to make sure systems integrators, its vendor partners, cloud service providers and do-it-yourself organizations that have a lot of IT engineering talent get the time they need to master OpenStack before demand for an open-source approach to managing cloud computing deployments takes off.

“I don’t think we want to see the demand side for OpenStack take off too soon,” said Balakrishnan.

As a practical matter, OpenStack is nowhere near as complete as VMware vCloud or Microsoft Systems Center 2012. But as OpenStack continues to mature, demand for an open-source cloud management platform for Linux environments is almost assured, and there are those who would argue that OpenStack will eventually supersede anything VMware and Microsoft have to offer.

IBM and Hewlett-Packard, for example, have both made major cross-platform commitments to OpenStack. In the case of IBM, OpenStack is as big a priority as Linux. HP, meanwhile, has positioned OpenStack as the foundation for a new cloud operating system.

The degree to which all that enthusiasm for OpenStack turns into a tangible opportunity for the channel remains to be seen. The one thing that is certain is that some form of an open-stack framework for managing cloud computing deployments is going to be part of the cloud computing mix for years to come.

Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.