CoreOS takes the fight to Red Hat with Managed Linux

origin_6124798895CoreOS, one of the youngest new distros in the Linux family that relies on Docker containers to manage both the system and applications, has announced $8 million in series A funding. At the same time, it’s also launched a new subscription version of its product – nudging it ever closer into Red Hat’s territory.

CoreOS can be described as a stripped-down down version of Linux that’s designed to run massive server deployments. It’s based around three ‘core’ technologies – etcd, a distributed key-value store that helps tie clusters of CoreOS machines together; systemd, which helps developers command a cluster of CoreOS machines as though they are one system; and Docker, which packages up apps and run them as containers while automatically configuring the network.

Besides this, CoreOS is trying to differentiate itself in another way. Updates will be streamed automatically to users rather than being done manually – in similar fashion to something like Mozilla Firefox or any one of Google’s dozens of products.

“CoreOS minimizes the complexity of an update by compartmentalizing each entity that normally needs to be updated: the operating system, application code, and simple configuration values,” says the company on its website. “CoreOS updates are consistent because they rely on active-passive root partition scheme. We update the entire OS as a single unit, instead of package by package. Release channels are used to provide a healthy balance of stability and new features. For further control, update strategies can be configured per cluster.”

This approach to Linux support is markedly different from its presumed chief rival, Red Hat Linux. Most of the support – such as patching systems – is done automatically, which should mean much less human intervention.

Which is why it’s not surprising that venture capitalists are eager to jump on CoreOS’ bandwagon. It’s first round of funding (the aforementioned $8 million) comes by way of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which also happened to invest in Puppet Labs. Others joining the round include previous investors Sequoia Capital and Fuel Capital, according to the press release.

By way of comparison, Red Hat snatched up just $2 million for its first round of funding back in 1998.

As for the actual subscription, which goes by the name of CoreOS Managed Linux, system admins will be interested to know it’s priced at just $100 per month to manage up to 10 servers. This guarantees automatic patches and updates plus ‘limited support’. There’s also a premium plan for larger businesses which includes support over email, the phone and live chat. Premium users will also get access to the CoreUpdate service which manages updates behind a firewall. We should note though, CoreOS’s pricing quickly rises once you get past the cheapest plan – for example, the ability to manage 50 CoreOS servers comes at a price of $2,100 per month for limited support, or $6,600 for the full works.

Nevertheless, it can’t be denied that CoreOS has some momentum behind it. Google Compute Engine recently began supporting the distro, and there are also images available on AWS and Rackspace.

photo credit: Gonzalo Merat via photopin cc