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Your Red Hat Hyperconverged Infrastructure questions answered

Red Hat HCI is software only, based on open source applications and is aimed for IT operations that want to use existing hardware in a DIY implementation.

In mid-2017, Red Hat Inc. entered the HCI market with the Red Hat Hyperconverged Infrastructure platform. Using the existing open source software in the Red Hat playbook, the company crafted a suite of products that enables customers to deploy HCI on existing hardware or hardware purchased specifically for a Red Hat HCI implementation.

The Red Hat Hyperconverged Infrastructure platform is initially aimed at businesses with remote locations. Red Hat touts the benefits of avoiding vendor lock-in, as well as a lower cost to entry than a prepackaged HCI appliance. However, software-only HCI platforms such as Red Hat's can prove more complex than those sold bundled on a tuned appliance.

One thing Red Hat has going for it is that its customer base is used to using open source software, including the company's own Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) OS. So, the benefit of easier management that comes with HCI appliances is less important than it might be to organizations not using Red Hat's products already.

What hypervisor does Red Hat's HCI suite use?

Not surprisingly, the company uses the open source Kernal-based Virtual Machine (KVM) hypervisor for its Red Hat Hyperconverged Infrastructure platform. KVM works with Linux-based servers, which makes it fit well with Red Hat's RHEL server OS.

What is the minimum number of servers Red Hat recommends for its HCI platform?

Red Hat requires a minimum of three servers to offer the compute and storage resources to any virtual machines (VMs). The company says a medium build would be six servers, each having two six-CPU cores, at least 128 GB of RAM and up to 64 TB of storage space.

How does Red Hat virtualize its storage resources?

The Red Hat Hyperconverged Infrastructure platform uses open source distributed file system GlusterFS to virtualize storage. The file system creates a pool of available storage and offers it up via remote direct memory access through either TCP/IP or InfiniBand protocols. Red Hat purchased Gluster -- the developer of GlusterFS -- in 2011.

One of the hallmarks of HCI is ease of management and installation. How does the Red Hat Hyperconverged Infrastructure platform accomplish that?

Although the name comes from a science fiction communication device, Red Hat uses Ansible technology to handle HCI configuration, management and deployment. Ansible uses established "roles" called Red Hat System Roles to consistently manage nodes.

What are the core components of Red Hat HCI?

There are four primary components in Red Hat HCI. They are RHEL for the server OS, Red Hat Virtualization (RHV) to handle the creation and management of virtual computers and servers, GlusterFS for storage and Ansible to deploy and manage the entire platform.

What other companies provide software-only HCI products?

The biggest provider of HCI software is VMware with its vSphere stack based on vSAN. And while Nutanix started out selling only branded HCI appliances, it now makes its HCI software available as a limited-scale free download. Nutanix also sells its software bundled on hardware from the major x86 server vendors.

Pivot3 and Maxta sell software-only HCI systems that users can install on existing hardware, assuming that hardware meets each company's reference requirements. Both companies also sell their software preinstalled on existing appliances.

Is Red Hat Hyperconverged Infrastructure available for cloud implementations?

In June, 2018, Red Hat unveiled Red Hat HCI for Cloud, based on the latest Red Hat OpenStack Platform and Ceph storage. Red Hat OpenStack works for the public or private cloud like RHV does for the enterprise, creating pools of virtualized storage and compute resources. In the case of Red Hat HCI for Cloud, the VMs are deployed on a public or private cloud.

What is the intended market for Red Hat HCI?

Red Hat officials say that the market for its HCI products is the remote office/branch office market. Specifically, Red Hat says it has targeted the financial services, retail and energy sectors.

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