Red Hat offers test drive appliance to gain OpenStack users, enhances its production version, moves to manage Amazon, Microsoft workloads.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

August 29, 2014

5 Min Read

As VMware announced an unexpected OpenStack distribution at VMworld, rival Red Hat launched a software appliance preloaded with OpenStack. The appliance is designed to give Red Hat customers an easier way to test drive Red Hat's version of the cloud software.

OpenStack is notoriously hard to configure and get up and running. It's not a product, but a cloud service framework that leaves many packaging and configuration decisions to the user -- or the consultants that the user must hire. At the OpenStack Summit in Atlanta last May, a survey of attendees showed 39% of them had stood up their OpenStack cloud using Red Hat's distribution, said Red Hat's Tim Yeaton, senior VP of infrastructure.

Red Hat would like to push that number higher through the availability of its virtual appliance. The more customers it can get to try its version of OpenStack over the next few months, the better its chances of adding OpenStack adherents before VMware gets serious next year with its own OpenStack distribution. The two firms' customers overlap with each other considerably; the vendors tend to collide at the point of enterprise virtualization -- Red Hat offers its own suite with its KVM hypervisor -- and cloud computing. VMware has a huge advantage in virtualization software, but Red Hat has credibility when it comes to open source code for cloud computing.

Many observers concluded VMware was warding off Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Compute Engine when it announced its upcoming OpenStack distro, called VMware Integrated OpenStack. But don't forget Red Hat. It's already got a presence among early OpenStack users, and those users start by deploying a lot more KVM, the default open source hypervisor in OpenStack. With VMware's OpenStack distribution, they will be KVM-free, using VMware's ESX Server instead.

[Want to learn more about VMware's approach to cloud computing? See What Docker Means For VMware, Cloud.]

So Red Hat isn't sitting around doing nothing. The appliance is dubbed Open Virtual Appliance for Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform 5, and it's for those just getting started. At the opposite end of the spectrum, those preparing to run OpenStack in a private cloud, production setting, there's RHEL Platform 5 itself, based on the Icehouse version of OpenStack. The OpenStack project released Icehouse in April.

Red Hat is still upgrading its Icehouse version of its platform. On Aug. 26, Red Hat added a new installer, a graphical user interface-based wizard that steps the implementer through the process "without the need for deep command-line expertise," according to Joe Fitzgerald, general manager of Red Hat's cloud management, in an interview.

The installer is built on open source Foreman, a system lifecycle management tool, that lets the implementer set parameters that are translated into the underlying infrastructure. The installer captures them and can reapply them to another RHEL Platform installation, if necessary, Fitzgerald said. The installer can perform auto-discovery on a host and provision it with Linux as well as the cloud software.

The Red Hat OpenStack platform also includes high availability as part of its deployment, Fitzgerald continued. The platform runs on a server cluster, and if one machine fails, the cluster controller recovers the failed workloads and assigns them to other nodes. OpenStack services can be run in an active-active arrangement, with one service instantly replacing another in the event of a failure.

For those services that include active-active awareness, all controllers in the cluster will be available to step in and recover a lost service, offering a higher guarantee of continued availability, Fitzgerald said. High-availability features give a private or public cloud the appearance of never experiencing a failure.

The platform now includes a built-in software load balancer to distribute resource consumption and provide broader system equilibrium, Fitzgerald continued. The load balancing reflects Red Hat's accumulated experience in building Linux clusters, he said.

Those who use the OpenStack virtual appliance will find it easier to move into a private-cloud operation with the licensed versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and its OpenStack distribution, Yeaton said in an interview. The appliance, installer, and high-availability features are available immediately. The appliance may be downloaded for free at the start of September from the Red Hat Customer Portal Page.

In a separate announcement Aug. 25, Red Hat announced the availability of CloudForms 3.1, its hybrid cloud management product. CloudForms isn't meant just for workloads in OpenStack public or private clouds or Red Hat's own RHEL OpenStack Platform. It offers management capabilities across Amazon Web Services, VMware virtualized environments, and, for the first time, private clouds based on Virtual Machine Manager in Microsoft System Center.

CloudForms includes the management capabilities of ManageIQ, a firm Red Hat acquired in 2012, which contributed its code to the OpenStack project this past May. It is also an independent project,, sponsored by Red Hat. It provides lifecycle management for virtual machines running in different clouds.

The 3.1 version will support workloads in Amazon's Virtual Private Cloud, as well as integration into the AWS service catalogue for Elastic Load Balancing, Storage, and Relational Database Service, Yeaton said. It also adds Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager as a CloudForms platform, with discovery, analysis, reporting, and operations for workloads in a System Center private cloud.

In addition, it has enhanced OpenStack operations with workload discovery and analysis of OpenStack Image Service. It can perform inventory and reporting on OpenStack Block Storage and OpenStack ObjectStore. It integrates with OpenStack Identity for multi-tenant identification, permissions, and service discovery, Yeaton added.

CloudForms has been enhanced to work more closely with VMware's vSphere virtualized data center system, including increased security, optimized network access to configuration information, and enhanced performance, he said.

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About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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