Hyper-Converged Infrastructure is one of the greatest innovations in the modern data center. I have been a big fan ever since I heard the analogy “iPhone for the data center“ from Nutanix, the company who invented hyper-converged infrastructure. In my previous roles as CEO of Cloud.com, creator of CloudStack, and CTO of Citrix’s CloudPlatform Group, I helped many organizations transform their data centers into infrastructure clouds. The biggest challenge was always how to integrate a variety of technologies from multiple vendors into a coherent and reliable cloud platform. Hyper-converged infrastructure is an elegant solution to this complexity, that makes infrastructure consumable by offering a simple turn-key experience. Hyper-convergence hides the underlying complexity and makes the lives of data center operators much better. Typically, hyper-converged infrastructure is used to run virtual machines (VMs), the popular workload running in data centers today. The nature of data center workloads, however, are changing. In the last year, Docker containers have become a significant type of workloads in data centers. Because of this, we are beginning to see market demand for purpose-built and optimized infrastructure solution for containers. Today, our team at Rancher announced a hyper-converged infrastructure platform for containers, powered by Rancher and Redapt. This is a turn-key solution to stand up a complete container service platform in the data center. Organizations no longer need to source hardware, deploy virtualization and cloud platforms, and integrate separate container orchestration systems.
Support for both VMs and Container Infrastructure
We designed the solution to support both VMs and containers, following the approach used by Google to run virtual machines in containers. We have experimented with this approach in our RancherVM project since April and have received a lot of positive feedback from users. A benefit of running VMs inside containers is the ability to leverage the same tools to manage both VMs and containers. Because VMs and containers in fact behave in similar ways, the Rancher CLI and UI we have developed for Docker containers seamlessly applies to VMs. We use RancherOS as the base operating system for the converged infrastructure platform. The RancherOS kernel has builtin support for KVM. The following figure depicts how Rancher and RancherOS work together to form the complete software stack for our hyper-converged infrastructure solution.
Containerized Storage Services
All hyper-converged infrastructure solutions include a distributed storage implementation. By leveraging our other major announcement today, Persistent Storage Services, this hyper-converged infrastructure solution has the unique ability to use multiple distributed storage implementations. Users have the freedom to deploy the software storage platform that suits the needs of their applications. This approach reduces failure domain and improve reliability. Failure of a distributed storage deployment can only impact the application that consumes that storage. Users can deploy open source and commercial storage software, as long as the storage software is packaged as Docker containers. We are incorporating Gluster and NexentaEdge into our hyper-converged infrastructure platform, and plan to support additional storage products in the future.
Access to the Docker Image Ecosystem
Successful hyper-converged infrastructure solutions often target popular application workload, such as databases or virtual desktops. The Docker ecosystem offers a rich set of applications that can run on the Rancher hyper-converged infrastructure solution. DockerHub alone, for example, contains hundreds of thousands of Docker images. In addition, Rancher makes it easy to run not just single containers, but large application clusters orchestrated by new container frameworks such as Compose, Swarm, and Kubernetes. Rancher Labs has certified and packaged a set of popular DevOps tools. With a single click, users can deploy, for example, an entire ELK cluster on the hyper-converged infrastructure.
Our Partnership with Redapt
We have known and worked with Redapt team for many years. Back in 2011, my team at Cloud.com collaborated with Redapt to build one of the largest CloudStack-powered private clouds at the time, consisting of over 40,000 physical servers. We were deeply impressed by the technical skills, the ability to innovate, and the professionalism of the Redapt team. Creating a hyper-converged infrastructure solution requires close collaboration between the hardware and software vendors. We are fortunate to be able to work with Redapt again to bring to market the industry’s first hyper-converged infrastructure for containers solution.
Rancher and Redapt are working with early access customers now. We plan to make the hyper-converged infrastructure solution generally available in first half of 2016. Please request a demo if you would like to speak with one of our engineers about converged infrastructure, or register for our next online meetup, where we will be demonstrating this new functionality. Sheng Liang is the CEO and co-founder of Rancher Labs. You can follow him on Twitter at @shengliang.