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A Red Hat Hyperconverged Infrastructure deep dive

Hyper-converged infrastructure is a popular platform for compute, storage and networking. So where does Red Hat fit in with its variety of HCI offerings?

Red Hat is one of many vendors that offers hyper-converged infrastructure, but the company takes a slightly different approach than most.

Red Hat Hyperconverged Infrastructure (RHHI) is based on leading open source technologies such as Linux, OpenStack and Ansible. In addition, RHHI is a software-only product, not a fully equipped appliance.

Red Hat offers two distinct HCI products: Red Hat Hyperconverged Infrastructure for Virtualization and Red Hat Hyperconverged Infrastructure for Cloud. As a result, organizations can choose between a more traditional approach to HCI or one that provides a cloud computing environment.

Despite the differences from other HCI products, RHHI still shares many of the same goals: to procure, deploy and maintain infrastructure simply. The components that make up the RHHI software stack integrate well and admins can install them on industry-standard hardware. Together, the software components deliver a highly scalable architecture that's easy to work with and can support modern workloads. They provide a centralized interface to manage compute, storage and network resources.

Red Hat Hyperconverged Infrastructure for Virtualization

RHHI for Virtualization offers a single support stack for virtual compute and storage resources, which enables organizations to run business-critical applications in a virtualized environment. According to Red Hat, the product's dominant use is in remote office and branch office environments, where the office synchronizes data with a central data center.

The product combines compute, storage and networking capabilities into a single deployment that admins can centrally manage through Red Hat Virtualization Manager. It supports multiple Windows and Linux guest operating systems, and it can run virtualized and containerized workloads side by side. RHHI for Virtualization includes software-defined networking functionality and advanced data reduction capabilities. It supports virtual graphics processing units.

Chart detailing Red Hat Hyperconverged Infrastructure offerings

RHHI for Virtualization implements three-way replication to ensure high availability and data protection. It provides a RESTful API for automating management and programming configuration. It incorporates security technologies such as secure virtualization, Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux) and transport layer security to protect against attacks aimed at the host or VMs.

The product is built on several Red Hat products, including Red Hat Virtualization, Red Hat Gluster Storage and Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform, which are deployed across a cluster of physical machines. Here are more details on those three offerings:

  • Red Hat Virtualization is a software-defined platform for virtualizing Linux and Windows workloads. The platform is built on Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM). It provides a secure foundation for virtualizing resources, processes and applications. Red Hat Virtualization makes it possible to automate, manage and modernize virtualized workloads. It integrates with multiple Red Hat products, including Red Hat OpenShift, Red Hat OpenStack Platform and Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform.
  • Red Hat Gluster Storage is a software-defined storage platform for handling general-purpose workloads. It supports both the Network File System and Server Message Block protocols for file-based access, as well as OpenStack Swift for object access. The platform stores data without needing a metadata server, which eliminates any single point of failure. It is also optimized for persistent container-based storage.
  • Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform is an agentless IT automation offering for centrally managing remote clusters. The platform makes it possible to automate the configuration and administration of virtual compute, network and storage resources. It can automate application deployment and service orchestration. It can also orchestrate advanced IT operations such as continuous deployment or rolling updates.

In February 2020, Red Hat released RHHI for Virtualization 1.7, which incorporated the latest versions of Red Hat Virtualization (4.3) and Red Hat Gluster Storage (3.5). It also added support for the 4Kn media format.

In August 2020, Red Hat released RHHI for Virtualization 1.8. This version transitioned to Red Hat Virtualization 4.4 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8. It added support for IPv6 and at-rest encryption using Network-Bound Disk Encryption. Users can upgrade all the hosts in a cluster with one click in the Administration Portal. In addition, Red Hat added new roles, playbooks and inventory examples to help simplify and automate such tasks as restoring configuration, replacing hosts or creating the cluster logical network.

Despite the differences from other HCI products, Red Hat Hyperconverged Infrastructure still shares many of the same goals.

Red Hat Hyperconverged Infrastructure for Cloud

RHHI for Cloud is a hyper-converged system that provides colocated software-defined compute and storage resources, managed through a unified interface. It targets private cloud deployments, as well as network functions virtualization (NFV) workloads. According to Red Hat, the ideal NFV uses include core data centers, central office data centers, and service provider edge and remote point-of-presence environments.

The product enables service providers to consolidate their workloads into smaller hardware footprints, with compute and storage functionality running on each host in a cluster. The RedHat OpenStack Platform director orchestrates all resources, while it increases visibility and streamlines operations. The product uses advanced compute and memory management techniques such as KVM memory reservation and non-uniform memory access to deliver consistent performance during cluster stage changes.

With RHHI for Cloud, organizations can run virtualized and containerized workloads side by side. IT can deploy the software on industry-standard servers, which scale up to 50 nodes. RHHI for Cloud combines Red Hat OpenStack Platform and Red Hat Ceph Storage into a single, prepackaged software product that's deployed across the cluster.

Here are more details on those two offerings:

  • Red Hat OpenStack Platform is a scalable product that virtualizes resources on industry-standard hardware. It organizes components into a cloud environment that enables users to access the resources they need. The platform is built on Red Hat Enterprise Linux and includes key security features such as SELinux. The platform also offers multiple features that increase networking performance and flexibility, such as Open Virtual Network and load balancing as a service.
  • Red Hat Ceph Storage is a programmable storage platform that's scalable and hardware independent. It supports file, block and object storage and uses a peer-to-peer architecture that ensures data distribution throughout the cluster, while it handles failures. The platform provides advanced monitoring and diagnostic information, including cluster and per-node usage and performance statistics. In addition, Ceph Storage incorporates features such as striping, erasure coding and replication to ensure high availability and data durability.

As with RHHI for Virtualization, Red Hat released the most recent version of RHHI for Cloud in August 2020. Version 13 makes it possible to use the OpenStack Platform director to deploy and manage RHHI for Cloud. Admins can use the director to define and validate custom deployment plans. In addition, customers can use the command-line interface to update their existing environments to RHHI for Cloud 13.

Red Hat Hyperconverged Infrastructure components

Red Hat's HCI products -- RHHI for Virtualization and RHHI for Cloud -- offer integrated, software-defined compute and storage to meet a range of workload requirements. Each consolidates hardware, which helps to reduce footprint and streamline deployment and maintenance. The components that make up the HCI products are based on open source technologies, which help tap into community innovation and deliver systems based on industry standards.

The components provide integration with other Red Hat products, as well as APIs for integrating with third-party tools. For many organizations, Red Hat HCI can prove a viable strategy for implementing hyper-converged infrastructure without the hardware vendor lock-in that comes with many products in this field.

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