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Demystifying Red Hat's Advanced Cluster Management: A Key to Hybrid Cloud Strategy

·7 mins· 0
Technical Introduction OpenShift Advanced Cluster Management ACM Hybrid Cloud Rancher Anthos IBM Red Hat DevOps Multi-Cluster Management OpenShift Hybrid Cloud Platform Engineering
Table of Contents
ACM Overview - This article is part of a series.
Part 1: This Article

Introduction #

Welcome back to another bite-sized chunk of tech wisdom here on, your go-to source for all things tech and beyond. It’s me, Nick Miethe - OpenShift aficionado, Platform Engineering maven, DevOps expert, and your guide through the labyrinth of modern technologies. From servers and networking, to 3D printing and woodworking, I strive to entertain, educate, and elevate your understanding of the tech landscape.

Today, we are navigating the highways and byways of Red Hat’s Advanced Cluster Management, or ACM. But why, you ask, should you concern yourself with this particular area? In the constantly evolving terrain of the tech industry, the rise of hybrid cloud solutions has become a defining characteristic of contemporary computing. With ACM playing a pivotal role in this domain, it’s not just a matter of if you will come across it, but when.

Synopsis #

The post that follows delves into the details of Advanced Cluster Management and its role in the Hybrid Cloud. We’ll draw comparisons to similar solutions in the market, namely Rancher and Anthos, and understand how they stack up against each other. Furthermore, we will unravel the critical role ACM plays in IBM and Red Hat’s hybrid cloud strategy - a topic that is just as exciting as it is crucial for anyone involved in the tech world.

In the grand scheme of things, comprehending these fundamental concepts of ACM could be the key to unlocking a wealth of possibilities in the hybrid cloud world. So, buckle up, grab your favorite beverage, and let’s embark on this knowledge journey together.

Diagram showing evolution of platforms and practices over time, leading to hybrid cloud
Evolution of Workloads and Environments over time

The Hybrid Cloud Push #

The concept of hybrid cloud has been a game-changer. By allowing organizations to run applications in the environment that suits them best - whether that’s public cloud, private cloud, or on-premise - they can achieve the best of all worlds. Additionally, when the tools used support this model, enterprises are able to reduce vendor lock-in, no longer being held hostage by their cloud or hardware vendors.

For a variety of reasons, be it regulatory compliance, cost optimization, latency considerations, redundancy and disaster recovery, or even flexibility, the hybrid cloud model has emerged as the preferred choice for many organizations. And with this shift, multi-cluster management, and consequently ACM, have found themselves in the spotlight.

We will explore the hybrid cloud model, including related benefits and challenges, in a future post. For now, check out related posts on the topic here, or see the example below.

Advanced Cluster Management (ACM): The Foundation #

Red Hat Advanced Cluster Management, or ACM, as the name implies, is all about taking control of multiple Kubernetes/OpenShift clusters. These could span across different cloud vendors or a mix of on-premise and cloud infrastructures, thereby setting the stage for hybrid and multi-cloud environments. ACM provides a centralized control plane that makes managing these multiple clusters a lot more streamlined and less prone to error.

But ACM is more than just a management layer for multiple clusters via a single-pane-of-glass. It also extends the capabilities of OCP across the Hybrid Cloud, enabling the deployment and management of applications and infrastructure, and standardizing the enforcement of policies and security.

Like most of Red Hat’s products, OpenShift Container Platform’s (OCP) ACM is actually based on an open-source project, the Open Cluster Management (OCM) project. The OCM project, under the stewardship of Red Hat and IBM, continues to push boundaries in the realm of multi-cluster management. Additionally, the full power of ACM stems from the host of integrations that it utilizes and enables.

Overview of ACM integrations in graph diagram
ACM Integrations and Enabled Environments

ACM in OpenShift’s Hybrid Cloud Strategy #

ACM is not just a handy feature of OpenShift; it’s a linchpin in Red Hat’s and IBM’s hybrid cloud strategy. As mentioned above, it’s about more than just managing clusters; it’s about policy-based governance, automated application deployments, and robust security features.

As these organizations continue their steadfast commitment to the hybrid cloud strategy, ACM serves as the key orchestrator in ensuring that applications are effectively deployed, managed, and secured across diverse environments.

The Capabilities of ACM #

Let’s take a closer look at some of the powerful capabilities ACM brings to the table.

Hybrid and Multi-cloud Capabilities #

One of ACM’s standout features is its ability to seamlessly manage clusters across multiple clouds and on-premise environments. This facilitates a hybrid approach to infrastructure management, where organizations can enjoy the flexibility of public clouds and the control of private clouds or on-premise environments.

Policy-based Governance #

ACM provides an overarching policy framework that ensures compliance across clusters. These policies can range from simple configurations to complex security regulations and can be customized to meet the specific needs of a business. This allows for the standardization of policy configuration and enforcement across n clusters, while managing them from a single location.

Automated Application Deployments #

ACM simplifies the process of deploying applications across multiple clusters. By utilizing GitOps methodologies, ACM can automate deployments, reduce human error, and ensure consistency. It also allows for deployments of workloads to span multiple clusters by integrating with other OCP technologies such as the OpenShift Service Mesh (Istio) and Submariner. This enables higher SLAs for target workloads by treating the deployment across multiple clusters as existing in a single network.

Alternatives on the Market #

Some of you may be reminded of competing technologies, such as those from Rancher and Anthos, when you see mention of multi-cluster management. While these do offer some of the same core cluster management capabilities as ACM, it is important to remember some of the key differentiators when making your choice.

Rancher #

Rancher, now a part of SUSE, provides a Kubernetes management platform that is renowned for its simplicity and ease of use. It supports multi-cluster management across diverse environments. Rancher’s strengths include its lightweight footprint, flexibility, and a rich catalog of applications ready for deployment. Rancher is excellent for lab environments, for users with minimal scaling requirements, or that have the resources and desire to build a full platform from scratch.

While I won’t get into the weeds of this comparison today, just understand that the target markets for Rancher vs OCP/ACM are often VERY different!

Anthos #

Google’s Anthos is a modern application management platform that extends Google Cloud services into on-premise and other public clouds. It offers a consistent platform for all applications, leveraging Kubernetes, service mesh, and other modern paradigms. Its strengths include deep integration with Google Cloud services, strong security, and advanced analytics capabilities. That said, its capabilities are generally considered much less mature than OpenShift’s, and it becomes severely limited outside of the Google ecosystem, whereas ACM provides parity across all cloud-providers, and even across mixed Kubernetes distributions.

The Future of ACM #

The growing adoption of hybrid and multi-cloud environments makes the future of ACM a promising one. As the demands on multi-cluster management continue to grow, we can expect ACM to evolve, accommodating more sophisticated orchestration capabilities, enhanced security measures, and seamless integration with a wider range of cloud services.

ACM, in all likelihood, will play a crucial role in the unfolding chapter of the hybrid cloud era, enabling organizations to unlock unprecedented levels of operational efficiency and application portability.

Conclusion #

In the end, Red Hat’s Advanced Cluster Management (ACM) is not merely an operational tool; it is the lifeblood of an effective hybrid cloud strategy. By providing granular control over multi-cluster environments, enforcing compliance, and facilitating automated deployments, ACM holds the key to harnessing the true potential of the hybrid cloud.

While ACM, Rancher, and Anthos all offer robust multi-cluster and hybrid cloud management capabilities, their strengths cater to different use cases. The choice between them should be guided by your organization’s specific requirements, existing infrastructure investments, and future cloud strategy.

I hope this post provided valuable insights into the Hybrid Cloud world, and the vital role of ACM in the future of Platform Engineering. Stay tuned for next time, where we will dive into the technical details of ACM and set the stage for future posts showcasing its true power!

References #

  1. Red Hat Advanced Cluster Management for Kubernetes
  2. Open Cluster Management
  3. Hybrid Cloud Explained

ACM Overview - This article is part of a series.
Part 1: This Article