How much longer can Red Hat's oVirt remain covert?

Red Hat's oVirt project has been around since 2008, when it purchased the technology from Qumranet. Since that time it has grown into a full-fledged hypervisor competitor, for the elite who know of its existence, that is. All that is about to change.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor

Sure, Red Hat uses the oVirt project as the basis of its own Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV), but the oVirt project itself is one of technology's best kept secrets. Well, the secret is out. I had the pleasure of speaking with Brian Proffitt, the oVirt project's Community Liaison, about what oVirt does, who uses it, and what they use it for. Red Hat's oVirt project is a free, open source project that might surprise you with its enterprise capabilities and for its potential as a drop-in replacement for VMware's ESXi and competing products. It's time to shed some light on the oVirt project and get some widespread adoption for it.

What exactly is oVirt, you ask?

From the oVirt website:

oVirt is a virtual datacenter manager that delivers powerful management of multiple virtual machines on multiple hosts. Using KVM and libvirt, oVirt can be installed on Fedora, CentOS, or Red Hat Enterprise Linux hosts to set up and manage your virtual data center.

The problem with oVirt is that it historically hasn't gained the notoriety of competing and associated products, such as:

  • Hyper-V
  • Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV)
  • VMware ESX/ESXi
  • Citrix XenServer
  • Proxmox

oVirt is a complete virtual machine management system. It is also the innovation engine for RHEV. Any new features that appear in RHEV appear in oVirt first.

The oVirt project also has possibilities as a VDI host environment as evidenced by the University of Seville (Spain) case study. The primary reason that the University of Seville decided to go with oVirt as an alternative to VMware is cost. The university has more than 60,000 enrolled students, so the scale of the project required technical staff to look for less expensive alternatives to traditional technologies but "...according to Miguel Rueda, Technical Manager of Universidad de Sevilla, the costs for a vSphere solution "were really high," which led IT decision makers at the University to turn to UDS Enterprise for a more cost-effective solution."

Additionally, the university technical staff use CentOS virtual machines (VMs) to further lower desktop operating system costs compared to that of Windows desktops. In fact, the university staff created their VDI infrastructure using all free software, which saved a lot of money for the project.

The university pays a subscription fee to UDS Enterprise, the University's cost savings through the use of open source software, the increased lifespan of their workstations, and the centralization of application management still delivered significant savings to the institution.

oVirt Features include:

  • Manage multiple virtual machines via web browser
  • Sophisticated user interface allows management of all aspects of your datacenter
  • Choice of means of allocation of VMs to hosts: manual, "optimized", pinned
  • Live migration of VMs from one hypervisor to another
  • Add new hypervisor nodes easily and centrally
  • Monitor resource usage on VMs
  • Manage quotas for use of resources (storage, compute, network)
  • Self-service console for simple and advanced use cases
  • Standalone or add-on installation
  • High availability
  • Self-hosted engine
  • iSCSI, Fibre Channel, NFS, and local storage
  • Load balancing
  • Built on KVM hypervisor
  • Open source

Choosing open source software, especially those projects like oVirt that don't have a huge following, is difficult. As we all know, open source software isn't always easier than the alternatives. But it's never been about how easy it is; it's about freedom of choice and freedom in general. And then there's the perception of open source. A customer of mine once told me, "We don't want to use that stuff because the guy up in his cabin who's programming it might decide that he's tired of doing it or that he's mad at someone and sabotages it."

That's not an uncommon viewpoint of open source software. Others feel that because it's open source that it's less valuable and somehow less secure than commercial software is.

Of course, I disagree. I think open source software is about freedom -- freedom without the shackles that often come with certain commercial vendors who feel that their software is perfect the way it is and you don't get to toss in your two cents nor do you get incremental updates. You have to wait for major updates and pay a lot of money for them to boot. So much for brand loyalty. I digress.

Fortunately, the University of Seville has UDS Enterprise to turn to for assistance. It's always good to have a second set of eyes and extra hands available when you need them. The university probably could have implemented all of the solution alone, but the cushion of commercial support doesn't hurt -- especially when things go wrong.

One very cool thing that Brian pointed out during our discussion is the low hardware and software requirements for oVirt. Chances are good that you have a system available right now that's capable of running oVirt and for testing a few VMs.

oVirt Host System Hardware Requirements:

  • 4 GB RAM
  • 20 GB disk space

oVirt Host System Operating System Requirements:

  • Fedora 20
  • CentOS 6.6, 7.0
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.6, 7.0
  • Scientific Linux 6.6, 7.0

Although oVirt is a Red Hat product, you can install it on Gentoo and Debian/Ubuntu systems too.

The oVirt project is a community-driven undertaking so if you want to get involved, and there are several ways to do so (it's not all coding), check out oVirt's Community and oVirt's Develop pages. Be sure to contact Brian if you're interested in one of the Global Workshops, which you can attend or help setup.

My thanks to Brian Proffitt, the oVirt contributors, Red Hat, and the oVirt Community as a whole for setting up and continuing this much needed project. Thanks for giving us a choice.

What do you think of oVirt? If you think it's worthy of more exposure, tell someone -- heck, tell everyone. Download it, install it, try it, and tell me what you think of it. If you work for a company that uses oVirt for your enterprise virtualization solution, send me an email and I'll setup an interview with you to find out more.

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