OpenShift, Kubernetes, And The Hybrid Cloud

For all the talk of cloud computing for the past decade and a half, for all the growth that the hyperscale public cloud providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud have undergone in recent years, these are still the early days of the cloud.

The bulk of workloads still live in the on premises datacenters of tens of millions of enterprises worldwide. And for any number of reasons, ranging from ongoing security or compliance concerns or the fact that some data is too heavy to migrate. The prevailing thought is that about 80 percent of workloads and 80 percent of enterprise IT spending is still focused behind the firewall, with the other 20 percent of applications and data and the other 20 percent of spending going to the public cloud, Brian Gracely, senior director of product strategy for Red Hat’s OpenShift technology, tells The Next Platform.

All that said, the prevailing trend is definitely toward the cloud. Organizations increasingly are embracing hybrid cloud and multicloud strategies and infrastructure spending is continuing to swing toward public cloud datacenters, which now account for more than a third of the entire datacenter hardware and software market. In addition, companies are now becoming more comfortable moving big enterprise apps into the public cloud. A study released last year by Virtustream, a cloud company owned by Dell Technologies, found that 97 percent of 719 survey respondents said that migrating mission-critical workloads like SAP applications are part of their larger multicloud strategies. And with such products as AWS’ Outpost systems, Microsoft’s Azure Stack and Google Anthos, the top public cloud providers are extending their reach into enterprise datacenters.

So it’s not surprising that Red Hat – which was bought by IBM last year for $34 billion in a move to expand its capabilities in the cloud – has put much of its focus on the hybrid cloud and multicloud models for the past several years, with an emphasis on openness in those environments. Some workloads will always run in the datacenter, but others will run in the public cloud, whether with the big three or others, from Salesforce to IBM to Oracle.

“The framework for hybrid cloud is really this idea that while customers want to take advantage of all these different cloud technologies that are there for them, helping them get to where there’s some consistency in terms of how they interact with those clouds, how they secure them, how their developers can interact with them is really been this thing we’ve been building on for the last number of years,” Gracely says. “Everything that we announce – at least that’s not just about Red Hat Linux – tends to be in that open hybrid cloud framework of what’s going on. If you look at the high-level things when IBM acquired us, that was really their mantra as well. They believe the world is in early stages of overall cloud adoption. They believe in hybrid cloud and they want Red Hat to help them drive that vision, whether it’s independently as Red Hat or also working with IBM and other ecosystem partners.”

OpenShift And The Hybrid Cloud

Foundational to that effort is the company’s OpenShift enterprise container and Kubernetes platform that was released about five years ago and is on a release cadence of every three to four months, with Red Hat pushing out new features. The open-source container orchestration was first developed inside Google before being contributed to the open-source community. For Red Hat, it’s a key part of the expansion of its Linux roots to a more complex Linux software stack that includes its OpenStack cloud platform and Insights analytics offering that can help companies manage their growing hybrid cloud and mulitcloud environments.

Red Hat has seen the OpenShift customer base grow from about 1,000 last year to more than 1,700 now, with strong adoption among Fortune 2000 companies, Gracely says. Among the examples are car maker BMW is using OpenShift for their self-driving vehicles, including some simulations. Another auto maker, Ford, is using the technology to help internal IT staff to deliver such technologies as artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics as a service, he says.

At its Red Hat Summit – now a virtual conference, thanks for the novel coronavirus pandemic – this week, the company rolled out OpenShift 4.4, the latest iteration of the platform that Gracely says better addresses the need for enterprises to operate in hybrid cloud environments that stretch not only from traditional datacenters out to the cloud but also to the edge, and where they have to embrace emerging cloud-native technologies while also continuing to support existing legacy solutions. Built on Kubernetes 1.17, the latest OpenShift release makes it easier for developers to monitor the platform and application workloads and manage costs and resources used for applications across hybrid clouds.

Managing Kuberetes Clusters

The company also is unveiling Red Hat Advanced Cluster Management (ACM) for Kubernetes, which will soon be available as a Technology Preview. Enterprise increasingly are running multiple Kubernetes clusters – sometimes in the dozens – that are located in different parts of their environments. Up until now, they had to mange each cluster one by one. That will change with ACM, which will enable enterprises to manage their clusters at scale.

“That gives us a really scalable management technology to manage thousands of clusters no matter where they run,” Gracely says. “They can run in people’s datacenters, they can run on top of the public cloud. We can begin to manage some of the public cloud Kubernetes. It reduces a ton of complexity for customers. It allows them to do kind of central policy management across clusters. So if you want to apply your financial services regulatory policy, you can deploy that across all of them.”

Red Hat also is giving enterprises a way to deploy and manage applications in Windows or Linux virtual machines (VMs) with the same OpenShift platform they use to manage containers and serverless environments. The feature, which is available as a Technology Preview within OpenShift, is based on the KubeVirt open-source project. It will mean fewer platforms for organizations to manage, reduces licensing costs and enables enterprises to fully embrace a Kubernetes-based platform for all their applications. Businesses continue to adopt cloud-native technologies in their hybrid clouds, but aren’t going to abandon everything they have now, Gracely says.

VMs aren’t going away. Some packaged software is only supported in virtual machines. Having a single platform to manage both VMs and containers gives enterprises another step in moving to more cloud-native applications, he says. For developers, they can begin to move away from the process of having to go their company’s infrastructure team to request VMs, a process that can months to spin up.

“What this does is brings virtual machines into a completely self-service mode for developers,” Gracely says. “The same way that they said, ‘Give me access to containers and Kubernetes resources and all the things I could do to build a new application,’ if part of that application requires something that’s a virtual machine, they now just do a self-service request. The platform just gives it to them. It has the potential to take a lot of friction for developers that have a mix of new parts of an application along with some existing parts of an application. It’s going to be a big advantage if developers want to improve their productivity. It’s also going to do some things to help customers take some costs out of out of legacy virtualization. They can bring over some non-licensed environments driven by open source.”

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