Yesterday, finally, Red Hat announced the availability of its new virtualization offering, which includes a platform based on KVM and an enterprise virtualization manager.
The company already released Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5.4 in mid September, which features KVM in the same way (despite technical differences in the architecture) Microsoft Windows Server 2008 features Hyper-V.
The problem is that RHEL 5.4 plus KVM may be not enough to compete against lightweight, dedicated platforms like VMware ESX and Citrix XenServer. Additionally, RHEL 5.4 lacks of enterprise management tools that customers can use to control large scale virtual data centers.
This gap is filled today with the release of Enterprise Virtualization Hypervisor (REVH) and Enterprise Virtualization Manager for Servers (REVMS).
REVH is a stripped down version of RHEL 5.4, with the following characteristics (partial list):
- Support for Intel VT / EPT and AMD-V / RVI
- Support for up to 64 physical CPUs (up to 256 core)
- Support for up to 1TB physical RAM
- Support for up to 16 vCPUs
- Support for up to 64GB vRAM
- Support for memory overcommit (page sharing only, depending on Linux Kernel Same-page Merging)
- Support for physical NICs bonding and multipath I/O
- Support for NFS, iSCSI and Fibre Channel
- Support for RHEL (from 3 to 5) and Windows (2003, 2008 and XP) guest operating systems.
For Windows guests Red Hat offers paravirtualized (network and block) drivers based on the VirtIO standard, which are certified by Microsoft thanks to the SVVP certification.
Red Hat reports that KVM can handle up to 600 virtual machines within a single host.
Its platform, based on KVM, is reportedly able to handle more than 400 virtual machines within a single host (with 32 cores and 1TB physical RAM).
The company also claims that it can reach up to 95% of real hardware performance for mission critical workloads like SAP or Oracle Database.
REVMS instead supports the following capabilities:
- Virtual machines live migration (across NFS, iSCSI and FC shared storage)
- Virtual machines high availability (if a host dies all its virtual machines are restarted on another one within the same cluster. It requires an out-of-band management interface such as IPMI, Dell
DRAC, HP iLO, IBM RSA or BladeCenter for host power management.)
- Virtual machines dynamic resource management (storage, networks and computing capability can be aggregated in resource pools. The System Scheduler relocates the VMs across the hosts that are part of the pool following the system policies and using live migration)
- Hosts maintenance mode (when the host is put in maintenance REVMS uses live migration to move virtual machines elsewhere)
- Hosts power management (the System Scheduler can use live migration to relocate the VMs on low activity hosts and power down the unnecessary servers)
- Virtual machines thin provisioning (the REVMS component called Image Manager allows to overcommit storage
- Virtual machines snapshots (snapshots can be scheduled and used as recovery points)
- Virtual machines templates
- Role based access control and support for Microsoft Active Directory for the management console
Funny enough, it seems that the REVMS console is only available for Windows clients (we’ll double-check with Red Hat on this and update this article accordingly).
The two products, bundled together with the name of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization for Servers, are sold through a subscription model. Price starts at $499 for 1 socket with 12×5 support.
Of course REVMS can manage the KVM platform included inside RHEL 5.4, but the operating system must be purchased separately.
To justify the value of its new offering, Red Hat even prepared a feature comparison matrix which includes VMware vSphere 4 and VI 3.5, as well as Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V, and a price comparison matrix that will generate endless discussions (we already know it):
The last piece of the new offering, Enterprise Virtualization Manager for Desktops (REVMD), which is the SolidICE product acquired from Qumranet in September 2008, will be released in early 2010.
That piece represents the real opportunity for Red Hat to attract new customers and compete with more mature competitors. Convincing customers to change their hypervisor of choice for server consolidation isn’t easy at all, but there’s still a huge, untapped opportunity around client consolidation (aka VDI) and enough confusion to give KVM plus SPICE a chance to gain some market share.
Another critical point is how the ecosystem will welcome this new offering. The Red Hat offering isn’t able to cover every need a customer may have around managing a virtual data center, so partners are critical.
The first one to jump on the Red Hat bandwagon is VMLogix, which announced its commitment to support REVH in its lab management solution Lab Manager.
Many others have to follow to make this offering a valuable alternative to VMware, Citrix and Microsoft virtualization platforms.