Technical Insights of Harvester 1.0

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Exactly one year ago, we announced the alpha availability of the project Harvester, an open Source Hypercoverged Infrastructure solution. During this last year, the team has been working hard on developing the project and we brought you the beta release of v0.2.0 and v0.3.0. Throughout the last year, we’ve received many queries from our users and the community, asking when Harvester will be in production.  

Now finally, after a year, we’re excited to present Harvester v1.0, the first general availability release of Harvester!  

Why Harvester?

Harvester is an open source alternative to traditional proprietary hyperconverged infrastructure software. Harvester is built on top of cutting-edge open source technologies, including Kubernetes, KubeVirt and Longhorn.  

Even though Harvester is built on top of Kubernetes, we’ve designed Harvester to be easy to understand, install and operate. Users don’t need to understand anything about Kubernetes to start using Harvester and can experience all the benefits of Kubernetes by using a standalone Harvester cluster.  

If you’re already familiar with Kubernetes and want to have a central place to manage all your Kubernetes and VM workloads, Harvester’s unique value is its integration with Rancher. With Rancher v2.6.3, users can manage all the Harvester clusters, local or remote, by using the new Virtualization Management feature. Also, it’s simple to provision new Kubernetes clusters on top of Harvester using Rancher. Harvester has provided a built-in CSI driver and Cloud Provider to the clusters provisioned by Rancher, which makes Harvester the ideal solution for any users who want to run Kubernetes workloads on top of VMs in the data center.

What does Harvester do?

As an HCI solution, Harvester brings compute, storage and network management together. Here are some highlighted features in the Harvester v1.0 release.  

Environment 

  • Installation 
  • Via ISO 
  • Via PXE 
  • Air Gap environment support 
  • Proxy support 

Compute 

  • VM lifecycle management 
  • Built-in monitoring dashboard 
  • Cloud Config 
  • SSH key injection 
  • Graphic console to VNC and serial port 
  • VM Template 
  • Live migration 
  • Export images from existing VMs 
  • Terraform Provider 

Storage 

  • High performance and efficient block storage 
  • Built-in highly-available image repository 
  • VM backup/restore to S3 
  • Hot plug disks 

Network 

  • Virtual IP for the cluster 
  • Multi-network 
  • VLAN 
  • Custom SSL certificate 

Integration with Rancher 

    • Virtualization Management via Rancher for multiple Harvester clusters 
    • Multi-tenancy support with RBAC 
    • Kubernetes cluster provisioning 
    • Built-in CSI driver 

What is Harvester made of? 

Operating System

Harvester is delivered as an appliance, with the operating system and everything needed to run included, and is designed to be installed on bare metal servers. The operating system is based on the widely used and trusted foundation of Linux kernel development for which SUSE has been known for more than 29 years.  

Kubernetes  

On top of the OS, Harvester uses Rancher Kubernetes Engine 2 (RKE2) to provide the Kubernetes experience. Built by the SUSE Rancher engineering team, RKE2 is a Kubernetes distribution created for enterprises with additional security features. It’s the sibling of the widely popular K3s distribution. By using RKE2, Harvester has a solid foundation of the orchestration layer.  

KubeVirt 

KubeVirt is a CNCF sandbox project that provides virtualization management on top of Kubernetes. KubeVirt was originally created by Red Hat. It’s a virtualization management tool based on KVM, the most popular open source hypervisor. The Harvester team has worked closely with the KubeVirt teams to add features like live migration with hot-plugged disks to KubeVirt to enhance the user experience of Harvester.   

Longhorn 

Longhorn is a CNCF incubation project that provides highly available persistent storage support to Kubernetes. Longhorn was originally created by Rancher Labs and is now maintained by SUSE. It’s one of the most popular cloud native storage solutions out there. There are more than 40,000 nodes running Longhorn worldwide. The Harvester team has also worked closely with the Longhorn project on features like backing image and live migration support. 

Other Cloud Native projects  

Harvester has also used Multus to provide multiple network support for the VMs, Kube-Vip for floating IP to the Harvester cluster as well as load balancing service to the guest cluster.   

Quick Start Harvester

Minimal requirement

  • CPU: x86_64 only. Hardware-assisted virtualization is required. 8-core processor minimum; 16-core or above preferred  
  • Memory: 32 GB minimum, 64 GB or above preferred  
  • Disk Capacity: 120 GB minimum, 500 GB or above preferred  
  • Disk Performance: 5,000+ minimal random IOPS per disk (SSD/NVMe). Management nodes (first 3 nodes) must be fast enough for Etcd.  
  • Network Card: 1 Gbps Ethernet minimum, 10Gbps Ethernet recommended  
  • Network Switch: Trunking of ports required for VLAN support  

Installation 

You can install Harvester via ISO or PXE into your bare metal nodes. Make sure to choose the first node to install as `Create a Harvester cluster`, all the other nodes should be configured as `Join a Harvester cluster`. Read more about ISO Install here or PXE Boot Install for more detail. 

Dashboard

Once you have installed Harvester, you will see the IP address of Dashboard in the bare metal node’s terminal.  

Put the IP into your web browser, then you will get access to the Harvester Dashboard.  

Integration with Rancher 

One of the most exciting features in Harvester is the integration with Rancher. Now you can manage your container and virtualization workload in the same Rancher instance, which gives you a unified experience for all your workloads in the data center. 

Notice that one Rancher cluster can manage multiple Harvester clusters, though one Harvester cluster can only be imported into one Rancher cluster. You can now access the Harvester UI via the Rancher UI. Also, you can now easily provision new Kubernetes clusters using the managed Harvester cluster. You can learn more about why we chose to integrate Rancher and Harvester here. 

For RKE1 and RKE2 clusters provisioned by Rancher, you can get the load balancer and persistent volume support automatically with the clusters provisioned by Harvester (which we will refer to as guest clusters in the future). For more documentation on the integration please read our docs.

Feedback

Harvester’s product and engineering team are always open to suggestions and feedback. Test out Harvester today and let us know what you think! You can reach us on our Slack channel, or submit a request in GitHub or reach out to us in the SUSE & Rancher Community. You can keep up to date with Harvester via our open source project page where you can access our latest docs. 

Also, join me and the SUSE & Rancher community team on the 19th of January 2022 at 10 am Pacific Time as we host our global community meetup introducing Harvester. You can also find out more about the GA release here. 

Enjoy Harvester! 

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