APEX Cloud Platform for Red Hat OpenShift


Last week, Thursday 26th October 2023 to be precise, Dell announced the availability of the APEX Cloud Platform for Red Hat OpenShift – which I will often refer to as ACP for OpenShift purely to save a lot of typing!!

This latest ACP variant follows on from the ACP for Microsoft Azure, which was announced in September 2023.

The APEX Cloud Platforms align with the announcements made at Dell Technologies World back in May 2023, where our ‘Ground to Cloud’ and ‘Cloud to Ground’ strategies were made public for the first time.

‘Ground to Cloud’ being where Dell takes its own software and makes it available in the public cloud, for example PowerFlex software defined storage in AWS or Azure.

‘Cloud to Ground’ space, where operating models that are typically consumed from the public cloud are made available within a local environment, be it data centre, co-location or edge and this is where the APEX Cloud Platforms fit.

What is an APEX Cloud Platform?

I like to think of it as a hardware solution that makes the provisioning and maintenance of a software platform as easy as it is in the public cloud. If I want to deploy an environment in the public cloud, it is typically as easy as selecting a few options and pressing GO.
Do I need to worry about versions of firmware or drivers in the public cloud? No, I do not.
ACP intends to offer a very similar approach, eliminating the need to worry about the underlying mechanics.

Over the last few years, Dell has had great success with its VxRail platform, whilst also learning a lot about what customers find challenging in maintaining their data centre equipment.

Many of the lessons learned have been included into these new platforms.

Referring at the ‘wheel’ on the left-hand side of the diagram, anyone familiar with VxRail will recognise the capabilities written between each ‘spoke’, however what is different is the software within the ‘hub’ of the wheel.

APEX Cloud Platform Foundation Software delivers much of what VxRail Manager did for VxRail.

Some readers may be questioning why I am writing about these platforms on a site which is predominantly focussed on PowerFlex software defined storage, the answer to that is shown on the right-hand side of the diagram – Dell Enterprise SDS. This can be an existing PowerFlex environment, or a new Dell SDS environment dedicated to ACP.

In the middle, you see Next Generation PowerEdge, all of this is built upon the latest 16th Generation Dell PowerEdge servers and will be labelled as the MC660 and MC760 (based on the R660 and R760). Both compute nodes, to run the cloud platform of choice and storage nodes, to run Dell SDS are available.

Why Dell APEX Cloud Platform for Red Hat OpenShift?

The relationship between Dell and Red hat goes back many years, Red Hat Linux has been available on Dell hardware since 1999, from then to the present day, a variety of joint initiatives, reference architectures, etc. have been delivered. However, this is the first truly integrated solution and currently, the only integrated solution to run OpenShift on bare metal servers.  

Before going into detail on the the ‘why’, it is useful to understand the ‘what’. Many would describe OpenShift as a Kubernetes platform, which it is, but it really is so much more.

At the bottom of this diagram, the basic Kubernetes engine is shown, but it is the layers built on top that turn a basic Kubernetes platform into a true enterprise developer platform and explains why for so many developers, OpenShift is the go-to platform.

ACP for Red Hat OpenShift takes all of this and delivers it in a simple to deploy/maintain platform, on the world’s best servers, connected to the fastest, scale-out, software defined block storage available.

The simplified deployment is enabled by the ACP Foundation Software bundled into each node, not only is it simple to use, but it reduces the time to deploy an OpenShift environment by up to 90% in some cases.
At the start, a set of questions outlining the desired outcome of the OpenShift environment need to be answered. The nodes to be consumed are discovered via their iDRAC. Details of the Dell SDS to be consumed are input. After that everything is automated.

The outcome of the deployment is shown in the diagram below:

  • OpenShift deployed.
  • ACP management software and OpenShift web console add-in deployed.
  • OpenShift OperatorHub configured.
  • OpenShift Service Mesh configured.
  • Dell SDS CSI driver installed to enable OpenShift to provision volumes from the Dell SDS.

When the deployment completes, the success screen is displayed.

Login into the OpenShift web console as kubeadmin, using the password supplied during the deployment process.
The first thing that is obvious, to anyone familiar with the OpenShift web console, is the addition of a new field in the left-hand menu – Dell APEX Cloud Platform

Opening this new field reveals a whole lot of information about the underlying hardware infrastructure that ACP is running on. So now when the developers tell their systems administrator there is something wrong and it must be related to the hardware, clearly nothing to do with their code – the administrator can check!!

Not only does the integration between the Cloud Platform Software and the underlying hardware provide a graphical view of the status, if there were to be a problem, the system can be configured to ‘phone home’ through the Dell Secure Connect Gateway and at a future date, to report into Dell CloudIQ.

Referring to the ‘wheel’ shown earlier, one of the spokes was ‘Full stack lifecycle management’, again anyone who has experienced our VxRail product will be familiar with this concept. Provisioning a platform in a ‘Known Good State’ and then providing the capability to upgrade to a new ‘Known Good State’. Unlike the historic approach of updating individual components and hoping that the upgraded bit is still compatible with the remaining bits that have not been upgraded, the solution is to provide a bundle of software, firmware, etc. that has all been tested together.

Hopefully, this introduction will have sparked some interest in the APEX Cloud Platform for Red Hat OpenShift or perhaps even made you want to hear about the APEX Cloud Platform for Microsoft Azure.

If it has, please contact your local Dell representatives who can point you in the right direction for more information.

Thanks for reading

Kevin Jones

** Please do NOT reproduce without permission of the author **