Accelerating IT Service Delivery for the Enterprise

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Organizations are continually seeking ways to accelerate IT service delivery in order to deliver greater business value while simultaneously increasing flexibility, consistency, and automation while maintaining greater control.

Platform as a Service (PaaS) provides organizations faster delivery of applications to their stakeholders by automating many of the routine tasks associated with application development and providing standardized runtimes for applications. This results in developers being able to focus on writing code rather then performing mundane tasks that do not add value.

OpenShift is Red Hat’s PaaS. OpenShift provides access to a broad choice of languages and frameworks, developer tools, and has an open source ecosystem which gives voice to the community and partners who work with Red Hat on OpenShift. Languages and Frameworks in OpenShift are delivered as cartridges and OpenShift provides the ability to extend cartridges to include customized cartridges. Finally, and perhaps most importantly for the purposes of our topic today, OpenShift leverages Red Hat Enterprise Linux as the underlying operating system in delivering PaaS. This is important not only because Red Hat Enterprise Linux is highly certified and has a proven track record for handling mission critical workloads, but because Red Hat Enterprise Linux runs just about anywhere – including on thousands of physical systems, virtual infrastructure, and certified public clouds. It also provides OpenShift with access to some great underlying technologies that are native to Linux like LXC, SELinux, and Control Groups which provide secure multi-tenancy and fine grain resource control without the need to reinvent the concepts from scratch.

Red Hat first offered access to it’s OpenShift PaaS as a hosted service, now named OpenShift Online, starting in May, 2011. For roughly 18 months, Red Hat worked on honing OpenShift while it hosted thousands of applications in OpenShift Online. During this time, an ever increasing demand was building from IT organizations who wanted to replicate the success of OpenShift Online in their own datacenters.

For this reason, Red Hat released OpenShift Enterprise – an on-premise offering of OpenShift which allows IT organizations to accelerate IT service delivery in their own datacenter in the same way organizations did in the public cloud with OpenShift Online. OpenShift Enterprise was the first comprehensive on-premise PaaS offering for enterprises in the industry, and it is a big game changer.

When an organization wants to adopt OpenShift Enterprise there are several decisions they must consider carefully.

First, they must decide what will host the Red Hat Enterprise Linux that serves as a foundation to OpenShift. Should they use physical hardware, virtual machines, or do they want to run in a public cloud? The correct decision will be different for each organization based on their specific requirements. Furthermore, in the rapidly evolving IT landscape, organizations will likely want to change the underlying infrastructure their PaaS runs on top of relatively frequently. Take, for example, the rise of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization backed by KVM as a highly secure and industry performance leading open source hypervisor.  It is important that organizations maintain flexibility in being able to deploy OpenShift Enterprise to a choice of infrastructure while maintaining consistency of their deployments of OpenShift Enterprise at each provider.

Second, how will OpenShift Enterprise be deployed onto the foundation of Red Hat Enterprise Linux? An organization may decide that OpenShift Enterprise will be deployed in one large pool that is equally distributed to all end users. The organization may, however, decide to split OpenShift Enterprise into smaller deployments based on it’s decided application lifecycle workflow (For example, Development, Test, and Production OpenShift Enterprise deployments). Each deployment of OpenShift Enterprise requires installing software and configuring it. These redundant (and often mundane) tasks should be automated to reduce time to deploy and the risk of human error.

Third, which cartridges (languages and frameworks) will be made available to the users of OpenShift Enterprise? It is likely that an organization would desire to allow developers access to a broad choice of languages in a development environment, but limit the use of frameworks and languages in test and production to those that are certified to the organization’s standards. It is important for organizations to be able to control which cartridges are available and installed within each OpenShift Enterprise deployment.

While organizations want to accelerate IT service delivery by utilizing an on-premise PaaS they desire to do so in a flexible yet consistent manner which allows for choice of infrastructure, while leveraging automation and controlling what languages and frameworks users of the PaaS can utilize.

Red Hat CloudForms delivers these capabilities, allowing organization to deploy and manage OpenShift Enterprise across a wide range of infrastructure. It provides both cloud resource management by abstracting and decoupling underlying infrastructure providers from the end user and hybrid cloud management of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and the software installed within it.

CloudForms focuses on three key areas that provide cloud resource management and hybrid cloud management of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and the software that runs upon it.

First, it provides the ability to define a hybrid cloud consisting of one or more cloud resource providers. These can either be virtual infrastructure providers (For example, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization) or public cloud providers (For example, Amazon EC2). CloudForms understands how to build operating systems instances for these providers, so system administrators don’t need to understand the different processes for each provider, which often differ greatly. CloudForms communicates with the various cloud resource providers via the Deltacloud API.

Second, it allows for the definition and lifecycle management of Application Blueprints. Application Blueprints are re-usable descriptions of applications, including the operating systems, additional software, and actions that need to be performed to configure that software. In defining a single application blueprint a CloudForms administrator could deploy an application to the cloud resource provider of their choice. CloudForms will manage launching the correct instances and configuring the software as required, even if the topologies and properties of each cloud resource provider are different.

Third, CloudForms allows for self-service deployment of the defined Application Blueprints based on policy and permissions. CloudForms users can select the Application Blueprint from a catalog, provide user defined input that was designed into the Application Blueprint, and launch it. Upon launch they can begin using their application.

Organizations that want to achieve flexibility, consistency, automation, and management of OpenShift Enterprise can use CloudForms to create an Application Blueprint for OpenShift Enterprise.

Upon defining an Application Blueprint for OpenShift Enterprise within CloudForms, OpenShift Enterprise Administrators would be permitted to deploy, via self-service, new OpenShift Enterprise AppForms (running OpenShift Enterprise Deployments) to their choice of cloud resource provider based on the policy set forth in CloudForms.

Upon deployment of the OpenShift Enterprise AppForm, instances comprising the AppForm would automatically register to CloudForms for ongoing lifecycle management. Ongoing lifecycle management provides organizations the ability to update underlying instances of Red Hat Enterprise Linux in a manner in line with their defined processes. It also allows organizations to control which cartridges (languages and frameworks) are installed on which OpenShift Enterprise deployments. For example, the OpenShift Enterprise AppForm in the development Application Lifecycle Environment may have all cartridges installed, while OpenShift Enterprise AppForms in the Test and Production Application Lifecycle Environments only have organizationally approved cartridges (maybe python, java, php) installed.

If you’d like to see the benefits of using CloudForms to deploy and manage OpenShift Enterprise, read my earlier post which includes a video demonstration.

The combination of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, OpenShift Enterprise, and Red Hat CloudForms allows organizations to accelerate IT service delivery while increasing flexibility and consistency, and providing the automation and management enterprises require.

The slides used in this post are available in PDF format here.

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