Red Hat ties virtualisation future to KVM

The enterprise open-source software company is moving away from Xen towards its own KVM technology, as part of its virtualisation strategy
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Red Hat is to build the KVM hypervisor into the next version of its Enterprise Linux offering, the company announced on Monday.

The inclusion of the virtual machine monitor in Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5.4 forms parts of the company's wider virtualisation strategy, which was also outlined on Monday. Despite this strategy being based on KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine), Red Hat will continue to support existing Xen-based deployments for the full lifetime of RHEL 5, the company said in a statement. Tools and services will be provided to help customers migrate from their Xen deployments to KVM.

Applications tested and certified to run on RHEL are "certified to run in a Red Hat virtualised platform with no modifications", the company also confirmed, as part of its strategy statement.

New virtualisation managers for servers and desktops were also announced, as was a standalone version of KVM that the company will distribute in a package called Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Hypervisor (RHEV-H). These products will be made available over the next three to 18 months.

The company that created and supports KVM, Qumranet, was bought by Red Hat in September 2008.

According to Red Hat's chief technology officer, Brian Stevens, the fact that KVM is based on the Linux kernel means the hypervisor's capabilities will benefit from "rapid evolution" in terms of power management, performance and security.

"While it is no secret that Red Hat has been openly working on KVM technology, both from its inclusion as part of Fedora 7 almost two years ago, and the acquisition of Qumranet, today marks our formal commitment to our existing and future customers," Stevens wrote in a blog post on Monday.

KVM is a native or 'bare metal' hypervisor that runs directly on x86-based host hardware, rather than running on top of an operating system. According to Stevens, this means that "any device, from the phone, appliance, desktop to server -- which are increasingly powered by Linux -- will, in the future, have the ability to host virtualised machines".

Stevens said that RHEV-H, which will be "a stateless hypervisor with a tight footprint of under 128MB", would be bootable from flash or a network server, allowing enterprise servers to immediately begin servicing virtual guests without the need for an installation process.

"This stateless model drives down [operating expenditure] and enables the scalability required by terascale grids, large datacentres and cloud class compute environments," Stevens wrote.

According to the company, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Manager for Servers will be "the first open-source product in the industry to allow fully integrated management across virtual servers and virtual desktops, featuring live migration, high availability, system scheduler, power manager, image manager, snapshots, thin provisioning, monitoring and reporting". The management tool will be able to manage RHEL 5 hosts as well as RHEV-H, Red Hat said.

Details of the Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Manager for Desktops were scarce in Monday's announcements, other than the fact that it is based on Qumranet's Solid ICE desktop virtualisation product and uses Qumranet's Spice remote rendering protocol.

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