Red Hat has predicted that virtualisation will be included in all operating systems for free, while setting out the roles of the two hypervisors it is working on for its own product range.
Red Hat is making a kernel-based hypervisor using KVM, developed by its new acquisition, Qumranet. This will provide better performance and power management on new hardware optimised for virtualisation, Paul Cormier, Red Hat's president of products and technologies, said on Wednesday.
However, Red Hat will continue to support the Xen hypervisor bundled in its Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (RHEL 5) operating system until at least 2013, both as part of RHEL 5 support and because it provides legacy support for virtualisation on older, x86-based hardware.
"KVM is clean, and is accepted in the upstream Linux community," Cormier said at a Red Hat press event in London. "All Linux distributions will work on this virtualisation technology. It's not a bolt-on or graft-underneath technology."
"At the same time, Xen was the right decision and still is the right decision," Cormier added. "We are the number-one contributor to the Xen project, and it is very much part of RHEL 5." Xen and VMware were produced earlier and had to run on Intel x86 hardware, which was not optimised for virtualisation, he explained, saying: "VMware and Xen have to do a lot of work, and that has an impact on performance."
For this reason, today's implementations of virtualisation — used on an estimated 10 percent of servers — are largely for test and development, he said. Most users find they cannot be optimised well enough, for performance or power conservation, to move onto large-scale production servers.
Virtualisation is predicted to move onto 90 percent of servers in the next five years, but, to do so, it will have to take more control of the hardware — hence the need for KVM, which is in the kernel and can use the extended instruction sets that Intel and AMD are providing for virtualisation in their newer processors.
"Xen was pioneered virtualisation on old hardware, but KVM was designed around new hardware," explained Red Hat's chief technology officer, Brian Stevens, at the same meeting. Having both hypervisors will not cause problems for users, since Red Hat has developed an API layer called Libvirt, which has been widely adopted.
Red Hat claims to be unconcerned about Microsoft's recent virtualisation push, saying that Microsoft has offered its Hyper-V product virtually for free purely to attack the commercial VMware product. "Microsoft has its eyes on VMware," said Cormier.
Cormier pointed out that virtualisation is already included for free in RHEL 5. "We didn't uplift the price of RHEL when we added it," he said, saying that the open-source model is well suited to virtualised servers.