Data Center Tech Blog

Server Linux TuxLinux has become increasingly important for supporting enterprise IT and cloud computing IT. Often installed on the same datacenter infrastructure as Microsoft Windows, Linux often supports clusters, grids and arrays of servers running Big Data/Analytics, Cloud Computing, Social Media and Mobility solutions.

But its influence extends far beyond those new types of workloads.

For enterprise workloads, much of the Unix systems portfolio has been migrating to Linux clusters in recent years. And new workloads, especially those in the open-source space, are running on Linux servers in both enterprise datacenters and hyperscale cloud datacenters. For cloud workloads, Linux must support service-critical data – and do so consistently—to maintain the customer experience.

Analytics with Hadoop, MongoDB and Cassandra often are hosted on Linux servers – and more traditional workloads, like database, OLTP, ERP and CRM are hosted on Linux servers. Virtualized environments often see Linux and Windows running on the same infrastructure – with the specific workload, and customer preference, determining the choice of operating system.

Key Takeaways from the Technical Conference

So, it was no surprise that at Red Hat Summit 2014 in San Francisco, April 14-17, the key takeaways centered on the RHEL 7 release, which is going into public beta this week. This move extends the initial beta for selected customers. This will put it into many hands, across the open-source community, and in enterprise and cloud datacenters – building an extremely large base for testing and evaluation. The last major release, RHEL 6, was introduced in 2010 – and a later release, RHEL 6.5, was shipped last fall. RHEL 7 is expected to ship later this year.

Red Hat is one of the top Linux distributions worldwide, leading to its wide use throughout the Linux ecosystem; it competes with other Linux distributions for new deployments, including SUSE, Oracle Linux, CentOS and Ubuntu.

Highlighted features of RHEL 7 include the following:

  • Containers. This feature supports “micro-services,” which are a new way of delivering cloud-enabled services. The containers isolate workloads, preventing them from interfering with one another – and allowing new ones to be added alongside others, without disruption. Read more here.
  • In-place upgrades. Important for business continuity, which is especially important for enterprise workloads that cannot withstand interruptions. But it’s also important for continuity of cloud services being delivered to end-users.
  • Increased Storage Support. This supports large data transfers to datacenter storage resources, allowing them to take place more quickly, addressing storage bottlenecks in the datacenter —and supporting large-capacity, multi-TB storage.
  • Developing end-to-end applications with OpenShift and PaaS technologies. The latest wave of App Dev and DevOps in enterprises presents the opportunity for technology refresh as applications are reinvented in the Age of Cloud and Big Data – and this process can leverage flash storage for acceleration of database and application workloads. Read more here.

Linux Evolution for Enterprise and Cloud

The megatrends of Cloud Computing, Big Data/Analytics, Social Media and Mobility have swept into the datacenters of the world – giving rise to the terms “Third Platform” by IDC and “Nexus” by Gartner. Today, customers demand that Linux be enterprise-ready, highly reliable, and mission-critical—as well as cloud-ready and supportive of datacenter virtualization.

Social Media TreeThe transformation in the datacenter is already a fact-of-life, with technology refresh needed to support next-generation workloads. Customer panels at Red Hat Summit confirmed this, as IT experts and IT managers from financial services companies, media/entertainment companies; automotive and aerospace companies, and healthcare companies described the many ways in which their Linux deployments are changing to meet today’s demands. A sampling of the brand-name companies attending the summit – speaking and participating in panels included: Amazon Web Services, AutoTrader, Boeing, Citibank, DreamWorks, Netflix, and Northrop Grumman – you can see the full list in the event’s session and labs listing.

In recent years, as virtualization progressed, and more Linux VMs were deployed on that virtualized infrastructure, customer expectations have risen for enterprise workloads running on Linux. As always, these workloads require enterprise-level security and availability – to meet business unit service level agreements (SLAs). But today’s deployments have shown that availability for web-enabled data services will be reached in new ways. Often, these services replicate data across three locations (yes, three is the magic number for cloud-era availability), ensuring that applications and production data will be available in any scenario. That’s the approach that Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s cloud services take, when supporting enterprise workloads.

Linux Servers and Flash Technology

Why is Linux functionality important to customers who leverage flash storage? It is because these operating-system features determine how end-to-end applications are supported. That is true whether the application is run inside an enterprise—or whether it connects with public or private clouds for some of their functionality.

Open-source software, such as the Linux operating system, and related system software for OpenStack, are important not only for the deliverables from vendors today – but also for the way they will be leveraged “upstream” after new functionality is created by the open-source community – and adopted for further use in the Linux ecosystem.

Paul Cormier, president of Red Hat’s Products and Technologies group, said the connection between web-scale computing and next-generation application development is clear: Support for the cloud and for hybrid clouds – combining enterprise IT and cloud IT – must be built into new apps. (You can watch a video of his keynote here.

It’s my view that flash storage will play an increasingly strong role in scale-out infrastructure running Linux, and Windows—in the enterprise and in clouds. Leveraging flash will mean that workloads are accelerated, compared to hard-disk drives (HDDs) – and that workloads can be consolidated, given the deep capacity afforded by flash solid-state drives (SSDs). For example, SanDisk® SSDs provide up to 2 TB per drive today – and will ship with even more capacity in the future.

The next generation of flash drives will offer customers the ability to accelerate applications and databases running on shared IT infrastructure. Built on non-volatile, semiconductor technology, they will allow storage to keep pace with faster processors and faster networking in the datacenter. A list of flash-accelerated workloads that run on Linux include those mentioned here and here.

What’s Ahead: Technology Refresh in the Datacenter

Next-generation datacenters will leverage Linux, alongside Microsoft Windows, deploying both in a virtualized datacenter environment. That is why Linux distributions like Red Hat, CentOS, SUSE, and Ubuntu are important to organizations adopting new technologies and new web-scale infrastructure for enterprise and cloud workloads. In a similar fashion, these next-gen datacenters will leverage the Open Compute Platform (OCP) project, which develops new open-hardware specifications and standards. It is telling that the OCP community, longtime users of Linux in both the enterprise and the cloud, was recently was joined by Microsoft, which also contributed several open-hardware designs to the OCP community projects.

Magnifying AnalyticsWe are seeing changes throughout the datacenter that highlight the transformation that is taking place. Servers and storage are changing, along with the systems software – like operating systems—that run on them. Virtual machines (VMs) running Linux and Microsoft are running side-by-side across the same datacenter infrastructure. Importantly, this is spurring the reinvention of the management software that orchestrates end-to-end applications across the datacenter—and into the cloud. All of this change in the dataceill impact the pace of flash storage adoption– giving solid-state drives expanded roles as engines for enterprise and cloudstorage.

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