Red Hat Pushes Container Images to the Edge

At its online Red Hat Summit event today, Red Hat announced it is adding additional deployment and management capabilities for deploying Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) using Linux containers.

Scott McBrien, a principal technical marketing manager for Red Hat, says the goal is to make version 8.4 of RHEL easier to deploy and manage on edge computing platforms.

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Red Hat, as part of that effort, has updated both Image Builder, a tool that creates customized deployable operating system images that can now be applied to bare-metal infrastructure, and Podman, an open source container engine that can be employed to automatically distribute container images from a central location. That capability is critical for highly distributed computing environments that include edge computing platforms that are not always easy to physically reach, said McBrien.

With the release of version 8.4 of RHEL, Red Hat is also making Red Hat Universal Base Image (UBI) that enables RHEL to run components in userspace available as a lightweight image that can be more easily distributed.

In addition, Red Hat is making Red Hat Enterprise Linux System Role for Crypto Policies and network-bound disk encryption (NBDE) available as a set of containers that can be deployed more easily in a distributed environment.

Other capabilities in RHEL 8.4 include support for simplified and automated system configuration and management via the Tracer utility and updates to the Red Hat Enterprise Linux Web Console. Those capabilities make it easier to manage system patching and updates in a way that identifies downtime due to service restarts or system reboots.

In general, containers are rapidly emerging as the preferred method for delivering software to the edge. Depending on the type of edge computing platform, those containers can be deployed on bare-metal infrastructure or on virtual machines that provide greater isolation between services. However, many edge computing platforms are employed for a single purpose, which tends to make virtual machines an additional layer of overhead that isn’t often required to run container images.

Of course, edge computing today spans everything from hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) platforms, installed by a telecommunications carrier to drive 5G wireless networking services, to a simple gateway. Version 8.4 of Linux is designed to address edge computing use cases that involve some type of server or gateway versus an individual device attached to the internet, notes McBrien. Red Hat today, for example, unveiled an edition of RHEL that has been certified for use within vehicles.

Determining exactly how software supply chains will be managed and maintained across multiple edge computing platforms is generally a work in progress within most organizations. Historically, edge computing platforms have tended to be managed by operations technology teams that report to a specific line of business. However, as more of these platforms become connected to the internet, there are more IT teams becoming involved in managing and securing these platforms. Best practices for how OT and IT teams collaborate with each other are still being defined within organizations.

In the meantime, however, it’s clear many OT and IT teams are now undergoing on-the-job container technology training at the same time.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.

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