Can free Red Hat on AWS make it the de facto Linux for the cloud, too?

Currently, the bulk of Amazon(s amzn) EC2 instances run on Ubuntu Linux. Now, just in time for the the Red Hat Summit, it appears Red Hat(s rhat) would like change that and is partnering with Amazon to offer a free tier of Red Hat Enterprise Linux on Amazon Web Services.

There has been a free tier of the AWS service for Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) running Amazon Linux or other “unpaid” versions of Linux for some time, but SUSE and Red Hat did not fall into that category. Now Red Hat Linux, which has become the Linux standard for most corporations, is part of the free tier. Users can get 750 hours of free Red Hat usage, but here’s some fine print: 

These free tiers are only available to new AWS customers, and are available for 12 months following your AWS sign-up date. You will not be eligible for the Offer if you or your organization create(s) more than one account to receive additional benefits under the Offer or if the new account is included in Consolidated Billing. You will be charged standard rates for use of AWS services if we determine that you are not eligible for the Offer.

aws free tierIt will be interesting to see if this move shifts the composition of operating system share on EC2. According to the Cloud Market, Ubuntu makes up over half of all AMIs running in AWS. “Other” Linux,which is presumably Amazon or other unpaid Linux, is at 23.2 percent; Windows at 8.4 percent and then there’s Red Hat at 5 percent (see chart).

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This just the latest example of cloud coopetition. Red Hat is working on its own flavor of an OpenStack cloud, still in preview but likely to become generally available this week at the Red Hat Summit. It is tailored for enterprise users and would challenge AWS for those the enterprise workloads that Amazon so clearly wants.

There may be a micro battle raging between the various flavors of Linux but the war lies ahead  as companies from Amazon, IBM(s ibm), Microsoft(s msft), HP(s hpq) and Red Hat fight to make their respective clouds the destination for corporate workloads.