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How Red Hat assembled an open source hyper-converged platform

By combining Gluster Storage with its Red Hat Virtualization software, Red Hat has thrown its own cap into the software-only HCI ring with an open source offering.

Red Hat Inc. jumped into the hyper-convergence fray with the release of its own HCI offering. The product targets organizations that want to implement hyper-converged systems in branch offices or for other edge computing use cases.

Red Hat Hyperconverged Infrastructure is an open source software product that delivers compute, storage and network resources as an integrated platform. The platform uses Red Hat technologies, such as Enterprise Linux (RHEL), Red Hat Virtualization (RHV), Gluster Storage and Ansible by Red Hat.

Organizations can use the open source hyper-converged software to build their own HCI systems based on commodity hardware and avoid vendor lock-in and the high costs of proprietary equipment.

Red Hat open source hyper-converged software

Red Hat's HCI product lets administrators set up a software-defined compute and storage platform based on a cluster of three, six or nine physical servers, each with its own processing and storage capabilities. The number of cores per server, as well as the amount of RAM and storage, depends on the size of the implementation.

For example, Red Hat recommends that a medium deployment include six hosts, each configured with two six-CPU cores, at least 128 GB of RAM and up to 64 TB of storage.

Administrators can set up each host in the open source hyper-converged platform in one of two ways. The first is to install the standard RHEL OS along with the necessary hypervisor packages. The second is to install RHV Host (RHVH), a minimal OS based on RHEL. RHVH includes only the packages needed to configure the server as a hypervisor for an RHV environment.

Red Hat Virtualization

Built on RHEL, RHV provides an infrastructure for implementing and managing server and desktop virtual machines (VMs). In addition, the infrastructure makes it possible to virtualize Linux and Windows applications, as well as standardize storage, network and infrastructure resources. The infrastructure also provides centralized administration capabilities through RHV Manager.

At the heart of RHV is Kernel-based Virtual Machine, an open source virtualization infrastructure implemented as a loadable kernel module that makes it possible to run multiple VMs on a single server, each one implemented as a regular Linux process.

RHV provides a RESTful API that enables administrators to automate management and programming configurations. The API also allows the use of third-party tools to back up, restore and replicate VMs and infrastructure data.

RHV natively supports Gluster Storage, including the ability to manage Gluster nodes through the administration portal. The infrastructure is also integrated with Ansible by Red Hat, an automation framework for streamlining administration across remote locations.

Red Hat Gluster Storage

Gluster Storage is a software-defined storage platform for managing data in physical, virtual, container and cloud environments. The platform combines file and object storage into a scale-out architecture that offers a global namespace for aggregating disk and memory resources into a single trusted storage pool. The platform also provides an object API to allow third-party tools to access the file store.

Built on RHEL, Gluster Storage can manage a variety of unstructured data, including media content, log files, machine-generated data, backup images, nearline archives and VM images. Red Hat optimized the platform for storage-intensive enterprise workloads, and it supports synchronous and asynchronous replication, as well as cluster-wide filesystem snapshots.

Gluster Storage can run on industry standard x86 servers, just like RHV hosts, making it possible to combine the platform with Red Hat's open source hyper-converged infrastructure.

Ansible by Red Hat

Ansible by Red Hat is an open source automation framework that provides the tools necessary to orchestrate complex multi-tier workflows and unify OS deployments.

Ansible takes an agentless approach to administration, using a push model for managing systems. As a result, the endpoints do not consume administrative resources when Ansible is not managing them.

To perform administrative tasks, Ansible uses prebuilt modules that run on the managed computers. Red Hat offers more than 450 modules. If a module does not exist to carry out a specific task, an IT team can write its own module, using any language. The only requirement is that the module must be able to handle JSON inputs and outputs.

Red Hat is proceeding cautiously in the HCI market, starting out small and focusing primarily on edge computing use cases, a growing concern in HCI circles.

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