RedHat CloudForms

Red Hat CloudForms is an Enterprise cloud-management product has been gaining a lot of traction in the market. CloudForms has been in active development by Red Hat since 2011, and is “the next generation of technologies which builds upon Red Hat Cloud Foundations to provide a complete IaaS cloud solution.” Essentially, CloudForms is a single-pane-of-glass virtual appliance that greatly extends an administrators automation and management capabilities across bare metal, a wide variety of virtualized environments (RHEL-V, VMware, HyperV, OpenStack, AWS, and Azure) and newer container-based products (openShift& kubernetes).


So it basically works like that.

Red Hat’s first major Enterprise-level foray into this space was with a lifecycle management product called Satellite. This paid add-on to any RHEL contract gives system administrators the ability to centralize provisioning, configuration, and package and content management operations, all from a (Highly-Available, optionally) single user interface. Satellite also keeps track of the customers’ current RHEL subscription usages and expiry warnings, and can monitor (and report on) all of the above tasks and current statuses. (There is also an open-source upstream release known as Spacewalk, which forms a lage part of the codebase for Satellite.)

CloudForms takes this idea even further by providing orchestration, governance, and policy-based controls across hybrid clouds. The product also features insight & discovery tools as well as full operational control and lifecycle management. In Red Hat’s view, CloudForms is essentially "IaaS done right."  Installation is as simple as deploying a Virtual Appliance. Out of the box, CloudForms is able to scan, inventory and monitor your environment, all without requiring a remote agent to be installed anywhere.

All the expected IaaS bells and whistles are represented in this offering including (but not limited to):

  • Policy Engine to enable metered consumption of resources (self-provisioning)
  • Relationship Mapping and Resource trend tracking (capacity and what-if planning)
  • Smart-State, Timeline, Audit logs and Event tracking (reporting and root cause analysis)
  • Configuration auditing (Server and Application configuration validation)
  • Policy Infraction Alerting and self-healing (detect and recover from invalid states automatically

In the Satellite 6 release, Red Hat extended the capabilities of Satellite with Puppet Enterprise integration. This was one of a number of major changes, and one that made many administrators cautious about upgrading from 5.7. It is worth understanding the advantages, however. The Red Hat Satellite-Puppet Enterprise integration takes advantage of what each product does best; namely allowing Satellite to handle infrastructure and initial deployments and retirements, while Puppet handles more specific configuration and ad-hoc task execution.

In late 2015, Red Hat purchased Ansible, an increasingly popular, agentless IT automation tool along the lines of a puppet/chef, or salt/saltstack. Developed by former Red Hat employees, Red Hat plans to adopt Ansible as automation middleware. Configuration requests supplied by CloudForms can be passed on to Ansible, which in turn can automate changes -- for example, by deploying Satellite agents on the machines that need them.

Ansible is also poised to edge out the use of Puppet in Satellite. Like Ansible, Satellite itself is also Python-based, meaning Ansible could be a more complementary fit for it in the long run. Puppet is based on ruby, making it a bit of an outlier in this new Red Hat Cloud Infrastructure stack.

Not that Red Hat is discouraging puppet in environments that already rely heavily on it (like, for example, their own). “The bottom line is that Red Hat supports other people’s stuff. It’s all about providing choice,” said Joe Fitzgerald, Red Hat’s vice president of management. However, the purchase of Ansible gives real insight into the future of the cloud management space from Red Hat's point of view. For example, Red Hat announced out-of-the-boxintegration of Ansible Tower directly into the CloudForms 4.1  appliance.

The combination of CloudForms and Ansible gives administrators powerful control of almost any environment, reporting on usage and enabling entitled users to request (and receive) capacity on demand.  You can control all your (Chef/Puppet) scripts via Ansible playbook and CloudForms can help manage server compliance and management. CloudForms provides users a service catalog, back-ended by Ansible’s Tower Job Templates (invisible to the end user). Tower imports server inventory lists from CloudForms for ongoing management, and leverages Ansible itself for live orchestration, versioning, app deployment and configuration tasks.

Anexinet will be working with Red Hat to get a full Red Hat Cloud Infrastructure stack up and running in the demo environment here at the Anexinet Innovation Center. If you’d like a demonstration feel free to reach out!