Open Source Will Drive Edge Computing: Red Hat

Red Hat, long the top vendor of commercial open source software, has in recent years put a sharp focus on the rapidly expanding hybrid cloud space.

The company, acquired by IBM for $34 billion in 2019 for its own accelerated push into hybrid clouds, has viewed the cloud space as a highly interoperable platform play, not only with Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), but also with such offerings as OpenShift for Kubernetes and containers, Ansible for automation, and Red Hat Insights for predictive analytics.

More recently, Red Hat officials have included the burgeoning edge computing space in its plans, seeing the field as a natural extension of the hybrid cloud and a good fit for the company’s platform and ecosystem strategy.

“We have always been focused in our open hybrid cloud that it’s an ecosystem play,” Stefanie Chiras, senior vice president and general manager of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux business, told InternetNews. “It is all about choice. It is about the ability to have a consistent and secure platform, kind of a language that is able to be spoken across multiple ways to deploy and that’s the strength of what we want to bring to the table. … Now we’re expanding that out to the edge space.”

Red Hat’s focus on the edge makes sense. The Linux Foundation’s State of the Edge report said that by 2025, the Internet of Things (IoT) and other edge-related devices will generate as much as 90 zettabytes of data. Red Hat’s own The State of Enterprise Open Source report also noted that a study indicated that 72 percent of IT leaders surveyed said that open source technologies will help drive the adoption of edge over the next two years.

Gartner is predicting that by 2025, 75 percent of enterprise data will be generated and processed outside of traditional data centers or cloud. About 10 percent is done so now.

Further reading: IBM, Lenovo Push Cloud Services, Devices to the Edge

RHEL for the edge

The edge was a central theme at the company’s recent virtual Red Hat Summit, where it bolstered its new Red Hat Edge initiative with the release of RHEL 8.4. The lightweight operating system includes OpenShift Plus, which supports three-node clusters for resource- and space-constrained edge environments and remote worker nodes for running Kubernetes on low-power gear at the edge.

In addition, Image Builder in RHEL 8.4 can rapidly create an image, deploy it and use that image with edge-optimized operating system images, Chiras said.

Practically every tech vendor has a strategy for the edge, a booming area of the IT industry that IDC analysts are forecasting will grow an average of 12.5 percent a year between 2019 and 2024, when it will reach $250.6 billion. Recently, Dell Technologies said it was leveraging OpenShift for two reference architectures aimed at the telecommunications and 5G. The Dell Red Hat OpenShift Reference Architecture for cloud-native networks also includes such Dell offerings as core and edge servers, open network switches that can run multiple third-party software, and storage products.

Spectrum Fusion file system

In addition, the day before Red Hat Summit, IBM unveiled Spectrum Fusion, an expansion of its Spectrum Scale parallel file system technology that had found its place in the supercomputing and high-performance computing (HPC) fields. Spectrum Fusion is a container-native software-defined storage (SDS) offering that is designed to help enterprises more easily move single copies of data between core data centers, the cloud and the edge.

Spectrum Fusion not only includes containerized versions of Spectrum Scale, Spectrum Discover (for visibility) and Spectrum Protect Plus (security), but also supports Red Hat Open APIs for Data Protection, OpenShift and Ansible. It first will be offered as a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solution in the second half of the year, with x86 servers, NVMe solid-state drive (SSD) storage and – for a 2U version – up to three Nvidia A100 GPUs. IBM next year will be releasing an SDS version, with software that can run on third-party systems.

IBM in March said it was extending the reach of its hybrid cloud services and such technologies as Watson AI out to the edge. Around the same time, Lenovo introduced its ThinkEdge SE30 and SE50 Intel-powered systems to bring more data processing and security capabilities to the edge.

It was the latest move by a tech vendor to enable organizations to better manage their vastly distributed environments that now stretch from on-premises data centers out to the cloud and edge.

5G, AI bolster the edge

Red Hat’s Chiras said there are a number of factors coming into play that put an increased focus on the edge, including new hardware capabilities that are creating a new set of opportunities around the edge. The evolving network – including burgeoning 5G adoption – also is a key edge enabler, she said. There also are new applications like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning that bring new capabilities to the edge and the rapid rise in the amount of data being generated. IDC said in 20818 that 175 zettabytes of data will be created in 2025. Last year the analyst firm said 59 zettabytes would be created in 2020 alone, despite the slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Some of the things that have happened in the past couple of years have opened up the amount of data that’s available,” Chiras said. “Those four things coming together now – with new technologies and hardware, the networking, new applications, new abilities to gather data – that all pulls together the opportunity that edge has today.”

For all that to work, Red Hat officials are pushing the need for a consistent, interoperable and secure platform that leverages open-source capabilities and can span all operating environments.

“That is the value of open hybrid cloud. It is choosing a strategic platform that you can then use here, there and everywhere, and now we’re bringing that out and expanding that out to the edge space,” she said. “That is critically important because edge, if nothing else, is probably the key example where breadth of hardware capabilities and new hardware architectures come into play, with all the new applications. [The] edge is a perfect example of a place where no single vendor can deliver on it. You need an ecosystem. The value of it is not just when it happens out at the edge, it’s when it connects back to your entire IT space, leading back into your data center.”

The common platform will be driven by Linux and containers, according to Red Hat President and CEO Paul Cormier.

“For cloud operators, Linux provides the linkage between each footprint of the open hybrid cloud, including edge,” Cormier wrote in a blog post. “Being able to move workloads from the edge to the datacenter to the public cloud without having to completely change each application is vital and made possible only through the open standards of the Linux kernel. Linux underpins the hybrid cloud, and it’s also the foundation of the furthest edge of enterprise IT.”

Jeff Burt
Jeffrey Burt has been a journalist for more than three decades, the last 20-plus years covering technology. During more than 16 years with eWEEK, he covered everything from data center infrastructure and collaboration technology to AI, cloud, quantum computing and cybersecurity. A freelance journalist since 2017, his articles have appeared on such sites as eWEEK, eSecurity Planet, Enterprise Networking Planet, Enterprise Storage Forum, InternetNews, The Next Platform, ITPro Today, Channel Futures, Channelnomics, SecurityNow, and Data Breach Today.

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