One platform to run them all: OpenShift on bare metal and the future of virtualisation




By Christopher Saul

The demand for cloud computing services in East Africa is constantly growing, with providers allocating significant budget amounts to building data centres and expanding infrastructure in the region. Enterprises need to seize the opportunity to kickstart their migration and modernisation plans, but there are many who may still be heavily reliant on traditional IT architectures.

At the same time, current economic conditions demand that any investment in IT is an investment in achieving efficiency. Virtualisation, as part of moving computing resources to the cloud and distinguishing environments from physical hardware, is a key part of that. But organisations should always consider what the best approach is.

Virtualisation vs containerisation

In business, efficiency is everything. In other words, what can your organisation do with the least amount of resources?

Virtualisation is the embodiment of efficiency in IT as it lets organisations split a single computer’s hardware components into multiple virtual machines (VMs). Each VM operates like an independent computer, complete with its own operating system (OS), and thus increases the return on the upfront hardware investment.

Being standard practice for enterprise IT architecture, virtualisation also serves as the bedrock of cloud computing and its economics. By virtualising servers, storage, and other resources, cloud providers can offer East African customers a range of services without facing ballooned hardware costs or infrastructure restrictions.

However, it is with cloud computing that enterprises start to see the value of containerisation as opposed to virtualisation. Though containers serve the same purpose of isolating applications so they can operate in multiple environments, they are designed with cloud-native apps in mind and are compatible with associated trends and technologies such as continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD), as well as DevOps. If East Africa is to take full advantage of the cloud, while optimising efficiency, it needs to know how to best package its software.

One platform to run them all

The discussion surrounding containerisation versus VMs becomes more critical as cloud computing becomes the norm. While VMs are best used to house traditional, monolithic workloads and run infrastructural resources, containers enable organisations to build cloud-native apps and move projects across a diverse IT footprint. Cloud computing and the accompanying modernisation trend can result in enterprises running multiple virtualisation platforms on top of one another to accommodate the two approaches.

Though there is nothing functionally wrong with nested virtualisation, enterprises and their IT teams do have the option of platforms that can run both VMs and containers, thus simplifying management and improving production and go-to-market times.

Let’s look at Red Hat OpenShift as an example. Because Red Hat OpenShift is built on Kubernetes and the Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) OS, organisations can get away with running on-premise, bare metal servers, with a platform subscription allowing them to run as many VMs as they need. In other words, one platform that meets enterprises’ VM and container needs without requiring an additional layer of management. The reward is a low-cost, private cloud environment that can run all kinds of workloads.

This arrangement also works well for enterprises that are in the process of moving to the cloud or have yet to commence their migration journey. Thanks to OpenShift’s application portability and support for multiple cloud vendors, enterprises can easily ‘lift and shift’ their applications between on-premise clusters and the various cloud platforms without having to modify their architectures.

Open > Proprietary

In an ideal world, East Africa’s IT landscape is defined by open source and the interoperability it represents. Coordinating proprietary software packages and the licensing that comes with them can be a very time-consuming and complex process, not to mention more costly if the product doesn’t match your scale.

With web, mobile, and cloud solutions increasingly being built on open source infrastructure and platforms, enterprises that leverage open source are then optimally positioned for a frictionless migration to the cloud. They can avoid vendor lock-in and seamlessly integrate applications and services offered by different providers.

Businesses should not be intimidated by the idea of open source, especially when it comes to balancing their old IT with new IT, and containerisation defines the cloud migration process. By working with vendors and fully understanding their virtualisation needs and options, enterprises in East Africa can lower costs, increase operational efficiencies, and set themselves up for success in a cloud-powered future.

(Christopher Saul is the Territory Sales Lead for East Africa at Red Hat).

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