OpenStack's Open Infrastructure Summit: bare metal made easy, that's Ironic

OpenStack's Open Infrastructure Summit: bare metal made easy, that's Ironic

OpenStack's Open Infrastructure Summit in Denver (April 29 – May 1) was clearly oriented towards edge computing. There were several announcements, such as on Airship for better automating datacenter management, or on StarlingX for managing very small cloud infrastucture. The most interesting project for me, however, is the Ironic project, a way to easily run bare metal as a service.

A bare metal server is a single-tenant server, a server that is not shared between clients. Usually it is not virtualized, but with modern architecture it can also host virtual machines and containers. This type of dedicated hardware architecture was state of the art 15 years ago, before virtualized, mutualized, and multi-tenant architectures emerged. Today, abstraction and virtualization dominate most of the computing infrastructure for optimization, cost, scalability, and manageability reasons. Abstraction, however, has a drawback in terms of performance and security.

Bare metal has a variety of advantages for critical, performance-intensive workloads, and new bare-metal dedicated technologies permit a wider usage of this ‘reborn’ technology. Having been a focus of OpenStack’s latest release, Stein, it was one of the announcements at the last Open Infrastructure summit: Ironic. According to the OpenStack Foundation, its bare metal provisioning and management tool Ironic has seen rapid adoption in recent years, with 24% of production deployments now relying on it, up from just 9% in 2016. Besides performance, bare metal provides hardware isolation of both workload and ownership that cannot be provided in a multi-tenant cloud environment. Bare metal helps to achieve compliance goals, an increasingly strong demand.

Nowadays, as hardware infrastructures have been commoditized and largely optimized, there are fewer advantages in multi-tenant/virtualized architectures in terms of cost and scalability, but there is still a big gap to bare metal in terms of large-scale infrastructure management.

Ironic fills this gap by allowing users to manage bare metal infrastructures as they would do with virtual machines, by providing a vendor-neutral API that permits data center administrators to manage those types of architecture at scale, whether they need VMs or bare metal. It manages very diverse hardware infrastructures and network configurations as well as their provisioning and deployment. Ironic pools all the datacenters resources, provides them on demand and permits better visibility as well as enhanced provision and deprovision of workloads. Additionally, Ironic allows much better multi-node management of Kubernetes-based systems. Ironic is the tool to finally execute bare metal as a service.

Ironic is another example of the resurgence of the private cloud, boosted by technology innovation and examples often born from the public cloud. Its capacities to manage heterogeneous infrastructures are also very important for the hybrid cloud architectures that are standard to our current IT systems.