Red Hat Accelerates Open Cloud Initiatives for Hybrid, Multi-Cloud, Virtualization

In the wake of big rollouts at Red Hat Summit, IDN talks with several Red Hat experts about the company’s latest vision for crucial technologies part of the modern enterprise. IDN looks at OpenShift, cloud-native apps, cluster management and support for edge, hybrid, cloud and multi-cloud enterprises.

Tags: Ansible, automation, cloud-native, containers, Kubernetes, OpenShift, Red Hat, virtualization,

Red Hat has rolled out the latest update to its OpenShift Kubernetes platform, along with tech previews of other related technologies – all aimed to help enterprises adopt and manage modern cloud models.   

The new offerings are engineered to bring automation, efficiencies, deep visibility and more to all popular cloud patterns – hybrid, cloud-native, edge computing and multi-cloud.

Red Hat’s rollouts came with a strong future-facing message. Here is one example from Red Hat materials

More than ever before, Red Hat sees a need for IT to evolve to meet rapidly expanding demand for always-on digital services and ever-present connectivity.

Red Hat believes that the necessary technologies for meeting these needs are not tied to legacy software stacks or rooted in expensive proprietary technologies. Instead, the answers will be driven by open source innovation, enabling organizations to take advantage of cloud-native platforms everywhere, from the edge and on-premises datacenters to multiple public clouds. 

With the help of Red Hat executives, IDN reviews some of the top reveals

OpenShift 4.4 – Update to Red Hat’s Enterprise Kubernetes Platform 

Red Hat’s Tushar Katarki, senior manager for product management, described his top takeaways for OpenShift 4.4 in a detailed blog post

Extends value from Kubernetes Operators. OpenShift’s Kubernetes Operator model has helped improve the installation experience. He explains how OpenShift 4.4 build on prior advantages.   

“The installation of the complete infrastructure, from operating system (Red Hat Enterprise Linux CoreOS) to end-user services, reduces the overhead required to install OpenShift in the hybrid cloud. With OpenShift 4.4, that self-guided installation experience now includes support for deployment with full-stack automation (IPI) on Red Hat Virtualization (RHV),” he wrote. 

Tech preview of OpenShift Pipelines. OpenShift Pipelines is a CI/CD add-on to OpenShift which provides a Kubernetes-native way to create CI/CD pipelines that are portable across Kubernetes platforms and run on-demand in containers. 

As an alternative to Jenkins, OpenShift Pipelines provides a cloud-native CI/CD experience that is built for containers and Kubernetes to streamline and automate application delivery for developers. OpenShift Pipelines is based on the open-source Tekton project. 

Developer preview of OpenShift Builds. This feature lets developers build what Katarki called “lean images” from application source code and binaries using Kubernetes tools (such as Source-2-Image, Buildah, Cloud Native Buildpacks, etc.) on OpenShift and other Kubernetes platforms.

Katarki added, “Our vision for container-native development uses OpenShift Pipelines to provide completed OpenShift Builds into OpenShift Serverless, Kubernetes deployments, Helm charts and other tools, to form a platform that is home to all of your apps, no matter what style app you are building.” 

OpenShift Virtualization – Unifying VMs, Containers and Serverless 

Brian Gracely, Red Hat

Brian Gracely

Senior Director of Product Strategy

Red Hat

"Some vendors seek to protect legacy technology stacks by dragging Kubernetes and cloud-native functionality backwards. Red Hat does the opposite. "

The goal of OpenShift virtualization is to enable organizations “to develop, deploy and manage applications consisting of virtual machines alongside containers and serverless.” So, Red Hat’s vision is that all these components should co-exist “all in one modern platform” so that enterprises can unify their cloud-native and traditional workloads.

With this vision, OpenShift virtualization is perhaps the best evidence of Red Hat’s future-facing thrust. The company put it this way

While some vendors seek to protect legacy technology stacks by dragging Kubernetes and cloud-native functionality backwards to preserve proprietary virtualization, Red Hat does the opposite: Bringing traditional application stacks forward into a layer of open innovation, enabling customers to truly transform at their speed, not at the whims of proprietary lock-in.

Red Hat OpenShift virtualization provides a full virtual-machine (guest Operating System in a virtual machine), so the applications will have full access to the OS, Brian Gracely Red Hat’s senior director of product strategy, told IDN. 

As to the VM, Gracely added, “The virtual machine is provided by Red Hat Virtualization, based on KVM. The virtual machine is actually running within a Linux container to access the hardware, and the underlying container is managed by Kubernetes (via OpenShift). So as an application developer/owner, they are just using either container or virtual machines (whatever is appropriate for their application), and the overall application is managed by Kubernetes."

This new feature is derived from the KubeVirt open source project. It is available as a Technology Preview within Red Hat OpenShift.

Advanced Cluster Management – Tackling Challenges of Cloud-Native Apps 

Red Hat Advanced Cluster Management for Kubernetes aims to address management challenges of running cloud-native applications – especially across large-scale, production and distributed Kubernetes clusters.

Red Hat Advanced Cluster Management for Kubernetes provides:

Unified management across clusters. To let organizations create, update, and destroy clusters reliably, consistently, and at-scale. Users have a single view across physical, virtual, private cloud, public cloud and the edge.

Policy-based governance, risk and compliance. To let users centrally set policies and enforce compliance policies with each new cluster at scale.

Advanced application lifecycle management. To let organizations use open standards to automate app deployments using placement policies integrated into existing CI/CD pipelines and governance controls.

Architecturally, Advanced Cluster Management for Kubernetes provides a single, simplified control point for the monitoring and deployment of OpenShift clusters at scale to promote better policy-driven governance and application lifecycle management. This results in “ground up” management of modern container environments. 

Gracely explained the workday benefits of ACM this way to IDN. 

"In the past, customers had to manage individual Kubernetes cluster one-by-one. With Red Hat Advanced Cluster Management, they can now manage a much larger number of Kubernetes clusters (100s or 1000s). In addition, they can create deployment, security and compliance policies that can be applied to any cluster. This helps them ensure that as more clusters are deployed (often by different application teams), that they will always adhere to security and compliance standards.

 Container-level orchestration and management is primarily focused on the individual deployments of applications (e.g. deploying a stateful application, scaling up/down a cloud-native application). Cluster management is about policy and lifecycle management of an entire cluster of resources and applications that run within (or across) clusters. So, for example, a specific application might have a distinct security setting for user-access. But a cluster-level security policy might dictate something that ensures that any application placed in a cluster will adhere to an industry-regulation."

Red Hat Advanced Cluster Management requires “at least one OpenShift cluster to operate,” Gracely said. That’s because ACM runs as a “containerized-application” on Kubernetes, he added. From there, ACM can manage other OpenShift clusters, or public cloud IKS, EKS, AKS, GKE services.

Red Hat ACM will be available soon as a Technology Preview.

Enhancing Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform - Analytics and Automation

Richard Henshall, Red Hat

Richard Henshall

Senior Manager, Product Management

Red Hat

"It is important to apply the same simplicity to how automation is executed, as to how au-tomation is created."

Red Hat also rolled out updates and rich features to its Ansible Automation Platform. These aim to address the complexities of expanding network demand and infrastructure footprints. 

“As automation becomes more of a requirement and less of a desire, exposing automated capabilities to an increasingly broad set of users within an organization adopting the Ansible Automation Platform becomes essential,” Richard Henshall, senior manager, product management at Red Hat, told IDN. “And it is important to apply the same simplicity to how automation is executed, as to how automation is created.”

During Red Hat Virtual Summit, the company rolled out expanded analytics capabilities to provide deeper insights. Among the updates are: 

Enhanced filtering to let users filter by Red Hat Ansible Tower cluster and by date. This enables drill-down filtering to individual clusters to get data relevant for a specific physical site or group.

Additional job stats provide a range of new information to keep operations on track. This extra data includes number of total runs, total time, average time, success rates – and even most failed tasks and the failure rates. 

Organizational statistics improvements to add additional filters to help compare automation adoption between organizations. Users can now filter by the top and bottom five organizations based on total job template use. 

This theme of marrying automation with management and governance will be a continued focus at Red Hat this year, judging from Henshall’s other comments to IDN. 

“Automation services catalog adds a technology-agnostic layer to exposed automation by adding additional governance and rules capabilities. Complimenting existing capabilities but resolving a different problem. “How do we simply expose automated services to users that either do not need to, or do not want to, deal with the technology that creates them?

“Automation services catalog allows for the distribution of the content to a wider audience, increasing the adoption of the automation teams created and ultimately accelerating access to the value that can be created.

As part of the wider Ansible Automation Platform story, automation services catalog sits alongside Automation Hub and Automation Analytics in delivering a focused story for a particular set of use cases but slotting alongside the other platform capabilities. Automation Hub allows for curation and management of content, automation services catalog for productionized and rules-based access, Automation Analytics for observation and analysis, and all powered by secure runtime execution in Ansible Tower."

A Look Inside the Red Hat Ansible Services Catalog

John Hardy, Red Hat

John Hardy

Senior Principal Technical Product Manager

Red Hat

"Instead of automation executed by tickets, the end user can order the automation and onboard themselves. "

Red Hat also debuted the Ansible Services Catalog, which provides greater visibility over what is being automated. It also helps extend the value of Red Hat Ansible Automation into organizations by helping put IT and business on the same page. 

Specifically, the catalog provides lifecycle management for automation resources across provisioning, retirement and logging of Ansible platforms.

Red Hat’s John Hardy, senior principal technical product manager, shared some benefits. 

Business Users can order products such as a virtual machine or cloud storage as easily as going to shop at Amazon. The order can be governed with multi-level approval and what the user sees is controlled with role-based access.

Developers can use the catalog API to request automated tasks within their application or pipeline. Provisioning a virtual machine, container or database application can be called from within their pipeline.

Hardy also shared a more general example where all users can benefit. 

“All users can use the catalog products to onboard to platforms. An example being that some automation can exist that creates projects or on-boards users to a platform like Red Hat OpenShift. Instead of this automation being executed by means of tickets being raised in help desks and waiting for specialized teams to execute the task, the end user can order the automation and onboard themselves."

And because Ansible Service Catalog works in conjunction with Red Hat's Ansible Automation Platform, it can improve outcomes from DevOps, Henshall added. That’s because ASC can offer ways to increase speed, accuracy and scale of CI/CD pipelines.

Red Hat’s 2020 Vision – A Cloud-Centric, Holistic Enterprise

In summary, the 2020 portfolio of debuts and updates from Red Hat reveals a cloud-centric holistic view of today’s enterprise – one that looks to make technologies more comfortable to adopt and more responsive to overall ROI. It further appears that Red Hat is intent on bringing along crucial stakeholders from operations, business and legacy on-prem asset managers.  

Red Hat president and CEO Paul Cormier put it this way during the Red Hat Virtual Summit.

“Perhaps more than ever before, the unique needs of every organization are in sharp focus - some need to scale operations immediately to meet relentless services demand while others seek to strengthen and maintain core IT operations. Rather than only provide technologies to address one need or the other, Red Hat provides a flexible, fully open set of solutions to our customers, meeting them where they are with what they need.”