Red Hat buddies up with Nutanix to provide an escape route from VMware

Red Hat is collaborating with Nutanix to make OpenShift and Red Hat Enterprise Linux a fully supported solution on the Nutanix native virtualization platform, AHV.

The new agreement provides for Red Hat OpenShift, its Kubernetes distribution, to be the Nutanix "preferred choice" for Kubernetes on Nutanix, and for Nutanix HCI to be fully supported by Red Hat for deploying Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and OpenShift. The Nutanix Acropolis Hypervisor (AHV) will now be certified by Red Hat for RHEL and OpenShift.

"Nutanix supports several different hypervisors," Red Hat's Ronald Pacheco, director of product management, told us, "They support AHV, VMware ESXi, Hyper-V and they also support Citrix XenServer. We're aware of customers who have been using Nutanix, mostly using ESXi... because Red Hat customers tend to be conservative and they want to make sure they're using a supported hypervisor, but at the same time saying, I'm paying a lot extra... so we have customers saying, help us out of this pickle here, can you possibly just support RHEL running on top of AHV?"

According to Pacheco, the next step for the two companies is to work on a smoother customer experience for installing OpenShift on Nutanix. Currently it is a somewhat "manual process, well documented," he said, but the aim is to "have it integrated into a future OpenShift offering so it just becomes an automated install experience."

What about running OpenShift on OpenStack, a fully open-source solution? "OpenStack is still there, we have a very healthy business mostly around the Telco space," Pacheco said, but customers are looking at HCI solutions like Nutanix "because of the simplicity of deployment... it requires a lot less skills," he said.

Nutanix uses open-source software but with proprietary elements on top. "We built AHV on a proven open-source CentOS KVM foundation and extended KVM's base functionality to include features such as high availability (HA) and live migration," say the docs, and "AHV uses Open vSwitch (OVS) for all VM networking," OVS being open source under the Apache 2.0 licence. Still, is the proprietary aspect a dilution of Red Hat's open source philosophy?

"We know that [Nutanix] has done a lot of work upstream... we encourage them to open source as much as they feel comfortable, but that's their business decision," said Pacheco. "We'll always be advocating for open-sourcing everything... I've been at Red Hat for quite a while and I've worked with just about every partner. It all starts in that proprietary role until they understand open-source development models and open-source business models."

RHEL runs on a number of hypervisors including its own platform, RHEL with KVM, Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware ESXi, as well as now AHV. Which works best? "We work with the hypervisor vendors doing performance tuning and optimization," Pacheco said, diplomatically, though he added: "I will keep my Fedora on my head and say, of course the KVM from Red Hat is the best optimized because not only are we doing the integration, we are doing that testing internally."

The benefit for Nutanix is that the platform is now blessed by Red Hat for running RHEL, while from Red Hat's perspective it is a validation of OpenShift. "Here's a partner who has come to the conclusion that if you are looking for an enterprise Kubernetes distribution, OpenShift is that," said Pacheco.

Nutanix does have other partners, including an agreement with Microsoft to provide Nutanix clusters on Azure and to integrate Nutanix HCI on-premises with Azure services, including AKS (Azure Kubernetes Service), though the technology is still in private preview.

Given the energy with which public clouds are pushing their own flavours of Kubernetes, including Google with Anthos and GKE (Google Kubernetes Engine), Microsoft with AKS, and AWS with EKS (Elastic Kubernetes Service), all of which now run on-premises as an option, the deal with Nutanix looks like good news for OpenShift. ®

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