Red Hat’s Partnership With GM: From Edge to Data Center and Back Again | Data Center Knowledge


When Matt Hicks announced Red Hat’s collaboration with General Motors at last week’s Red Hat Summit in Boston, he realized that “software innovation is no longer confined to the data center.” It’s true enough. The oft-repeated mantra, “all companies are software companies”, is quickly extended to add “and all devices run software”.

What is not yet repeated is the notion that software created for use outside the confines of a data center will generally generate workloads inside the data center.

Hicks, who is executive vice president of products and technology at Red Hat, alluded to this in his announcement of the deal with GM.

“The merging of physical machines and software is underway, and the ability to innovate beyond traditional boundaries is essential,” he said.

Simply put, this means that much of the data generated by software designed for connected devices, such as robotic machines in factories, oil exploration rigs in remote locations, and automobiles in streets and highways, will need to be pushed to edge locations and then to more centralized locations such as public and private clouds.

Creating the infrastructure to move vehicle data from GM to the Internet, and then across the Internet to where it is needed, will be Red Hat’s primary task in this partnership with GM.

“We tend to think of Red Hat as some sort of infrastructure provider,” Hicks told Data Center Knowledge, “so we’re part of a solution almost all the time.”

Collecting the data and building the platform to work in its vehicles will be part of GM’s market, as “they will learn more about lane detection capabilities, blind spots, collision avoidance and parallel parking than we’ll ever know,” according to Hicks.

Automobiles as Rolling Servers

GM’s goal is to replace the myriad of processor- and microcontroller-powered components that are currently spread across its vehicles with a single platform, called Ultifi, which GM is developing in-house. This includes the computerized safety features that have become part of the 21st century automotive landscape, as well as the sensor-driven components to keep a vehicle’s powertrain running at peak performance.

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The automaker says that in addition to handling essential vehicle functions, the platform will also come with consumer-facing features like weather and mapping apps, and potentially things like facial recognition features to recognize the presence of children, to activate the door locks. It will also connect to an app store that will make consumer apps available from third-party developers.

Hicks said consolidating all of these components into a single platform will not only simplify manufacturing, design and maintenance processes while providing additional resiliency, but it will also be more cost effective and reduce supply chain issues. supply for GM.

“For a long time, especially in automotive, everything was custom made with very specialized components to perform every function of the car,” he said, “and I think around the world we’ve had the challenges of that with the shortage of semiconductors With technologies like Arm being a really capable hardware standard that you can modify, we’re seeing server-like hardware that can integrate into embedded devices, and Linux takes very well in charge Arm.”

He mentioned Linux because Ultifi will run on Red Hat’s embedded operating system, which is an embedded operating system for cars. Basically, it’s a scaled-down version of Linux that cuts the company’s Red Hat Enterprise Linux server distribution from around 4,000 packages to around 200, and is customized to meet the needs of car manufacturers and car owners. fleets.

“An automotive OEM like GM can actually run Arm on very standardized hardware in their vehicles,” Hicks said. “They actually have general-purpose, open source-based operating system capabilities to make the most of that infrastructure. That’s the trend we’re seeing, that this hardware is moving from platforms very proprietary and specialized forms to general-purpose platforms that drive everything from electric vehicle functionality to possibly autonomous driving.”

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However, the integration of its automotive operating system with GM’s custom platform will be the least of Red Hat’s contributions to this project. The bulk of the work is to develop the cloud infrastructure to which the vehicle will connect.

From vehicle to cloud

When we talk about edge, we’re usually talking about computes near cell towers that can be used to communicate with what’s now commonly referred to as the “device edge” – these can include phones laptops, factory robots and, in this case, automobiles, which rely on towers as a ramp to the internet. For connected vehicles, GM and Red Hat will leverage 5G technology, which can deliver latencies in the range of 5ms to 10ms and below.

“The edge locations they’ll be talking to will likely be very close, the telephone pole or a hop,” Hicks said, “but the apps you write will also need to be very close to that. For the latency benefits of 5G, you don’t can’t call back to a public cloud Our ability to run OpenShift workloads at the edge, very close to those use cases, is one of the reasons we’ve stayed so deep in 5G.

Although much, perhaps most, of the critical computing for connected automobiles will take place at the edge, he said, massive amounts of data will also need to be sent to public or private clouds. centralized for more intensive computing.

“The best example I usually bring up is machine learning model training,” he said. “You’ll probably collect and act on data at the edge. A self-driving car will need to act on data that doesn’t go beyond the car, but you’ll probably also stream that data to retrain models and then push the new models to the edge. It’s a huge amount of data; it’s a huge amount of infrastructure to build the new models.”

Pushing data from centralized locations will also be necessary, Hicks said, to keep vehicle software up to date.

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It takes a village to build a connected car

Even with an embedded platform and operating system in place with cloud infrastructure to support it, there are other issues. Vehicles will undoubtedly have to deal with null zones, regions where there is no wireless connectivity, which can stretch for several kilometers in some rural areas. Additionally, keeping software updated and patched for security vulnerabilities is complex, both in terms of finding optimal situations for downloading and applying patches, and managing failed updates.

For the latter, Hicks said, security concerns dictate that the software will need to be able to accurately determine on its own whether the update was successful and roll back to the previous state if necessary — and do so. on the fly, and in a way that could never pose a danger to its passengers or other vehicles.

It’s also a community project that involves many more organizations than just GM and Red Hat, he said. This includes working closely with semiconductor companies like NVIDIA, to ensure they are up to date on the machine learning side, partnerships with public clouds for integrations with OpenShift and with telcos to optimize 5G connectivity.

“Obviously we do data centers pretty well, so if the need is to be able to work in private data centers, we’re here,” Hicks said.

“We don’t know where it takes us at this point, but we do know that applications enabling these use cases are going to touch all of these environments. You need to be able to understand the component of the big data center, you’re going to have to be able to write 5G localized edge apps, and you’re going to have to work in the device. We want to be a platform that makes all of that easier for developers and easier to maintain in the future.

GM expects Ultifi to begin rolling out in its vehicles in 2023.

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