BLOG: Rancher on IBMZ and LinuxONE

June 1st, 2022 BLOG: Rancher on IBMZ and LinuxONE
Andy Hartman
Senior Consultant


How to Implement and Deploy SUSE Rancher on IBM Z and IBM LinuxONE


Multi-Cloud Management platform to easily manage multiple cloud deployments either on-prem or in the cloud

SUSE recently announced the upcoming release of Rancher for IBM Z and LinuxONE, with availability planned for June 1, 2022. This release makes a nice addition to the tools available to manage Kubernetes-based clusters running containerized applications on IBM Z and IBM LinuxONE platforms.

Part of my role at Mainline is to evaluate System Z tools, operating systems, and open source projects so I can advise customers as they consider implementation as part of their workload modernization or digital transformation efforts. I have evaluated current releases of RKE2 and Rancher on all three supported distributions of Linux that run on IBM Z and LinuxONE. This blog is an overview of my findings. But first, let’s do a quick refresher on Rancher and its use cases.


What is Rancher?

SUSE defines Rancher as:

SUSE Rancher is a container management platform that provides full management of all your Kubernetes distributions.

To expand on that definition, Rancher is a multi-cluster manager. It allows you to manage different Kubernetes clusters from one central control point. Rancher runs on top of RKE2, which is SUSE’s Kubernetes implementation. RKE2 is built to be highly secure and run your containerized applications at scale.


Installing Rancher


Now, let’s talk in a bit more detail about implementing Rancher. One of the differentiators for RKE2 and Rancher is its ease of installation. Installing RKE2 and Rancher is the same across hardware platforms from on-premises x86, cloud, and on-premises IBM Z or LinuxONE. As mentioned above, I have evaluated current releases of RKE2 and Rancher on all three supported distributions of Linux that run on IBM Z and LinuxONE. These Linux distributions included SLES (SUSE Linux Enterprise Server) 15.3, RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) 8.5 and Ubuntu 22.04. All these operating systems were installed with just a base or minimized configuration. There are not any major prerequisites outside the base installation of whichever distribution you choose to use. There are many ways to automate the installation of any of these distributions. You can utilize a distribution’s specific automated install process, or you could use something like IBM’s Cloud Infrastructure Center to automate the deployment of the base servers. In any case, even with a completely manual installation, it only takes five to ten minutes to deploy a Linux server.

After the base servers are set up, you will install RKE2 on the server that will be the control node for this cluster and then install RKE2 agents on the servers that will be worker nodes that run Rancher or user containerized applications. This is done with a few simple commands and a simple configuration file containing an IP or DNS address for your control node and its node token. It takes just a few minutes to do this, and all the commands are documented. After you have this complete, you are ready to deploy Rancher on one of the clusters.

SUSE recommends standing up a control node and two worker nodes to run Rancher on its own cluster and then stand up another control node and worker nodes in a separate cluster to run your containerized applications. This is good for a non-production deployment. In my case, I set up a total of six Linux servers that hosted two clusters: A Rancher cluster and a user cluster. I ran the servers on an IBM z15 utilizing z/VM 7.2 as the hypervisor to run the Linux servers.


Deploying Rancher


To deploy Rancher, you will install Helm (a Kubernetes deployment/package manager) and then from Helm, install Rancher. Again, this only takes a couple of minutes to deploy. After you have Rancher up and running, you can bring your other user cluster or other Kubernetes-based clusters under the control of Rancher.

Bringing a cluster under the control of Rancher is easy. This can be done from the Rancher UI (User Interface) by importing the cluster. This entails a few clicks and naming the cluster. Rancher will return a screen showing a generated curl command that you run on the control node for your user cluster and that is it. At this point, you can manage your user cluster from Rancher.


Round Up…Easy to install, deploy, and manage


Rancher takes little time to set up, so you can spend more time on deploying actual applications. I found the implementation to be quite easy and straightforward. There were no complicated prerequisites or networking setups, etc. It was a few simple steps for each section of the installation, the Linux servers, RKE2, Rancher and then importing other Kubernetes-based clusters to begin managing them.

When you are looking for ways to manage multiple Kubernetes-based clusters, you should look at RKE2 and Rancher. Easy to install, easy to deploy, easy to manage.


Get More Information


As an IBM Platinum Business Partner, Mainline has extensive experience with IBM mainframe systems and operating systems, and we can help you with Red Hat OpenShift and Ansible, IBM Cloud Pak, SUSE Rancher and RKE2, z/OS, z/VM, Linux on IBM Z, and LinuxONE platforms.

To set up an in-depth discussion about how to get started using these technologies, please contact your Mainline Account Executive directly or click here to contact us with any questions.

Visit us at the 2022 VM Workshop, June 16-18 at Binghamton University, New York. Mainline System Z Architect, Jeff Broderick, is a featured guest speaker. His session “Keeping it Fresh – Let’s Talk Containers” will explore the various options for leveraging containers within the IBM Z ecosystem.


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