Red Hat adds virtualization, cloud to RHEL

Red Hat launches RHEL 5.4, the first version to include the standard Linux KVM hypervisor.
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Open-source software company Red Hat has made a bid at cloud virtualization with the release of the latest version of its operating system, which includes a built-in hypervisor.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5.4, which was made available to subscribers on Wednesday, incorporates a kernel-based virtual machine (KVM) hypervisor--software that allows multiple virtual operating systems to run on a host machine or system. The company first announced its move to KVM from its previous Xen-based hypervisor strategy in June 2008, with RHEL 5.4 promised as the first production OS so equipped in February 2009.

Paul Cormier, Red Hat president of products and technologies, told ZDNet UK at a press conference on Wednesday that the KVM codebase was integrated into the Linux kernel.

"KVM is upstream," said Cormier, referring to the integration of KVM with the Linux kernel. "All Linux will be built around and tested with KVM."

In his keynote speech at the Red Hat Summit in Chicago on Wednesday, Cormier said as a consequence of KVM being upstream in Linux, the hypervisor will be interoperable with RHEL 5.4 as used both in closed and cloud systems. Companies that subscribe to Red Hat will be able to combine virtualization capabilities with cloud computing functionality, said Cormier.

"KVM is a standalone hypervisor that shares the same codebase as 5.4," Cormier told the audience. "You certify once on Red Hat Enterprise Linux and you certify on bare metal all the way out to the cloud. Only us and Microsoft have the capability to do this."

Cormier said at the moment, RHEL and Red Hat's JBoss middleware can only be used in conjunction with Amazon's EC2 cloud platform, but that Red Hat was in talks with other cloud providers to open up those platforms to its customers.

The KVM hypervisor is the first stage of Red Hat's virtualization plans, said Cormier. Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) is currently in beta with 100 enterprise customers.

The first RHEV product releases will be KVM management tools, available before the end of the year, said Cormier.

One major virtualization hurdle for businesses is management of virtual machines. Navin Thadani, senior director of Red Hat's virtualization business, told ZDNet Asia's sister site ZDNet UK on Wednesday that while there were no Red Hat KVM management tools currently available, companies with the capability to manage the proliferation of virtual images would be early adopters.

"A large segment of the market has its own tools to manage hypervisors," said Thadani, who declined to say when exactly the KVM management tools would be made available. "There is a segment of the market looking for readymade tools from Red Hat, and that's what the virtualization management tools will do."

Thadani said the KVM management tools, slated for release before the end of the year, will cover both server and desktop virtualization.

As well as the KVM, RHEL 5.4 incorporates Intel Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (Intel VT-d) and PCI-SIG SR-IOV. This allows multiple virtual machines on an Intel Xeon Processor 5500 Series-based platform to directly share I/O devices.

The release is certified on Cisco's Unified Computing system and is supported by IBM.

In addition, RHEL 5.4 includes features aimed at developers and sysadmins. The Systemtap performance monitoring toolset, available in previous RHEL releases, now has support for profiling and monitoring C++ applications, as well as a larger number of static kernel tracepoints. The release also includes a preview implementation of a memory allocation library designed for multicore processor-friendly development.

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