The HCI combines compute virtualization and software-defined storage, and it may include a networking element in the future. It runs with an entirely open source infrastructure stack. But it’s developed, sold, and supported by a single vendor.
Red Hat’s KVM-based hypervisor runs the virtual machine workloads. Its Red Hat Gluster storage is software-defined storage that runs on “everyday servers and disks,” said Ross Turk, director of product marketing with Red Hat. The operating system sitting above and below the entire stack is Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Ansible by Red Hat automates the installation and configuration from a central point.
A lot of customers are running a virtualization stack and a storage stack at a data center, said Turk. “This is for companies that want to extend the data center further to the edge,” he said. “This takes compute and storage onto the same server and runs the entire stack.” Because the infrastructure can be managed centrally, remote locations don’t need to hire specialized on-site support staff.
The HCI could fill a variety of needs for enterprises.
It depends on the vertical business, said Turk. One retailer, for example, likes to run a local version of all its applications — 400 to 500 apps — in every store. That requires a lot of on-site servers. By using virtualization with Red Hat’s HCI, it can cut down on its fleet of servers, helping with space constraints, as well as reducing power and cooling.
In the oil and gas business, companies often have field offices that do a lot of number crunching. Previously, they have had to send their data back to the data center. But with on-site compute and storage, they can save time.
While Red Hat is calling its product hyperconverged infrastructure, the concept is similar to multi-access edge computing (MEC). And it all sounds a little bit like software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN).
There’s been a huge uptake in SD-WAN for branch offices. Red Hat is now also targeting branch offices — but with compute and storage — rather than networking.
“SD-WAN addresses networking challenges, and this targets those same customers but with a consistent computing platform,” said Turk.
To begin with, Red Hat doesn’t anticipate its branch customers changing their networking, said Steve Bohac, a principal product marketing managing at the company. “Moving forward, we’ll look at incorporating networking.”