Red Hat fortifies OpenStack suite, eases management for enterprise users

Red Hat has updated its OpenStack distro to the latest edition, and has partnered with NetApp and eNovance to advance OpenStack

What do enterprises want to see in OpenStack? With its latest distribution of the cloud hosting software, Red Hat is betting that they want a streamlined installation process and carrier-grade reliability.

The company has also partnered with storage provider NetApp, as well as telecommunications cloud provider eNovance, to advance some core OpenStack technologies.

OpenStack "is not a science experiment any more. We're talking real workloads that require predictable enterprise capabilities," said Radhesh Balakrishnan, Red Hat general manager for virtualization and OpenStack.

The company has released a beta version of the next version of its OpenStack distribution, Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform 5.0, that includes the latest version of OpenStack, called Icehouse, which was released last month. It also includes a beta of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 7, the next version of Red Hat's flagship operating platform. Customers will be able to use the OpenStack distribution on either RHEL 6 or RHEL 7.

Icehouse features a number of new capabilities and Red Hat has also included some tools to ease installation and configuration.

A new OpenStack feature called instance groups allows administrators to set policies specifying where virtual machines (VMs) can be placed within a cloud deployment. A group of VMs can be placed on a single server, or spread out across multiple servers for improving performance or reliability.

The backup API (application programming interface) for the OpenStack Cinder block storage controller has been updated to import and export database metadata, which is crucial for recovering databases in a disaster scenario.

The new OpenStack can now work with Layer 2-level networks, thanks to a plug-in for the OpenStack Neutron virtual networking component. The plug-in can speed operations by allowing network traffic to bypass software switches. The plug-in also includes a driver for the OpenDaylight software defined networking (SDN) platform. That sets the stage for NFV (Network Functions Virtualization) technologies, which virtualize network node functions so they can be controlled in groups.

Red Hat will also package a new installer for OpenStack, called Foreman, which can be used to automate repetitive tasks. It comes with a wizard-style user interface to further ease deployments.

Red Hat is not alone in quickly packaging Icehouse for commercial grade usage. Hewlett-Packard has launched its own OpenStack distribution based on Icehouse, called Helion. Fellow Linux distributor Canonical also packaged Icehouse in its latest Linux server distribution, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (Long Term Support).

In addition to releasing the beta version of its OpenStack distribution, Red Hat also announced a number of partnerships that may also make OpenStack more appealing to the enterprise.

The company is working with cloud systems provider eNovance to fortify OpenStack for telecommunications providers. In particular, the companies hope to drive the development of NFV for that industry. The pair of companies plan to contribute their work back to the OpenStack community.

Telcos are quite interested in NFV as a way to cut hardware costs and to introduce new software-based services. NFV addresses the telcos' need for determinism, which guarantees that an operation, once set in motion, comes to completion.

"Telcos, driven by business realities, are aggressively looking to reinvent themselves by embracing commodity based cloud solutions," Balakrishnan said, adding that the financial industry would be interested in this technology as well.

The two companies have also launched an early adopter program for telecommunications providers that wish to test the NFV, as well as for software and software vendors that want to develop NFV-based products and services.

Red Hat has also paired with network attached storage systems provider NetApp to develop a reference architecture to pair Red Hat's OpenStack deployments with NetApp's storage systems. The two companies plan develop a set of standards, called Manila, for integrating OpenStack with file-based storage systems.

Red Hat has also released the source code of hybrid cloud management software it acquired in 2012, when it purchased ManageIQ. The company subsequently rebranded the software as CloudForms.

The ManageIQ software can handle cloud management tasks such as tag-based policy and orchestration, capacity management, and financial chargeback. The software manages not only OpenStack-based clouds but those that run on VMware, Microsoft and Amazon as well.

By releasing the software as open source, Red Hat hopes to thwart competitors in the OpenStack space that maintain proprietary sets of tools for managing hybrid clouds.

"Red Hat's philosophy is that the whole cloud should be open," said Joe Fitzgerald, the company's general manager for cloud management.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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