Exploring open hyperconverged infrastructure solutions

One of the many joys of Red Hat Summit is the occasional peek into upstream projects and the rationale driving research and development. In this Summit breakout session, Sean Murphy, product manager, and Paul Cuzner, technical marketing lead, (both from the Red Hat Storage team) described some of the design considerations and testing that go into creating an open hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solution. The proposed model combines the oVirt virtualization management web application with Red Hat Gluster Storage, taking advantage of features in the just-released GlusterFS 3.7.x.

An industry hot topic, HCI involves the collapse of traditional IT infrastructure elements (compute, storage, etc.) into a small footprint that can run on commodity systems. This approach eliminates the need for discrete components and simplifies system management, reducing the total cost of ownership in both capital and operational expenses.

The team’s goal is to create an open, hyperconverged solution that is integrated, flexible, scalable, and secure. Development efforts are centered on the mid-market to large enterprise. According to Murphy, “mid-market has been showing a strong adoption of virtuaization technology over recent years, and there’s been a growing interest in software-defined storage and in HCI, by extension.” That market is looking to simplify storage management at a virtual machine level.

Murphy indicated that HCI is a hot market, citing a growth rate of 162.3% in 2014 and forecasted growth of 116% in 2015. Analysts predict that within 2 years, 50% of enterprises will be deploying and managing virtual machines via HCI. The strong market pull and rising customer interest in an open source value proposition have prompted Red Hat to look deeper into possible solutions.

According to Murphy, with oVirt and Gluster, Red Hat has access to a set of robust, proven core technologies that can be combined to create an environment “where the whole is technically greater than the sum of its parts.” Combining the 2 will provide a native, userspace Gluster storage domain type and enable volume management via the oVirt WebAdmin and the REST API. Gluster’s libgfapi will allow for direct storage calls, minimizing I/O overhead. GlusterFS also provides elastic storage, automatic self-healing, synchronous replication, and freedom from a central meta-data server, eliminating the possibility for a single point of failure. Also, the recent release of GlusterFS 3.7.x brings additional capabilities, including increased granularity in self-healing and data rebalancing and arbitration.

Paul Cuzner’s role in this exploration has been to take Gluster and “basically shake it” to see what aspects of it make sense for HCI and what needs to change. Understanding its behavior in different scenarios has helped the team describe a strategy that includes:

  • Hardware flexibility.
  • Multiple cache layers.
  • Optimized I/O paths.
  • Data security and redundancy.

Cuzner displayed results from several tests, illustrating the advantages of flexible data paths, triple storage redundancy, and multi-layer cache. He also demonstrated a performance comparison of various security configurations, such as:

  • Non-routable virtual local-area network (VLAN).
  • Gluster’s auth.allow IP filtering.
  • OpenSSL.
  • Data path encryption.

This flexibility allows for configurations that fit the security, data integrity, and performance requirements of any organization.

Cuzner closed with a theoretical deployment scenario, showing how storage capacity can be expanded to meet demand. While development continues, it is clear that Red Hat is in a strong position to contribute a viable, open source HCI solution.