SAN FRANCISCO -- Red Hat customers may be unsure which side to come down on in the debate between containers and VMs, and they won’t get much help from Red Hat. The company has positioned itself as both a neutral advisor in the containers vs. VMs debate, and also as the provider of a container provisioning platform, OpenShift, which runs on top of its virtualized implementation of OpenStack.
At the Red Hat Summit 2016 in late June, the company also rebranded the upcoming 4.0 release of its Enterprise Virtualization product as simply Red Hat Virtualization or RHV -- instead of RHEV.
The Red Hat strategy also includes improving customer experience with better designed user interfaces based on its Cloud Forms management product, which is itself getting increased capabilities to inventory and monitor container workloads.
According to Gunnar Hellekson, Red Hat's director, product management, Linux and virtualization, "Now people are thinking about the hybrid cloud … and our cloud strategy can be compelling for companies looking to use RH and take advantage of Azure or AWS and now Google Cloud. Also, it's good for having both a public and private cloud infrastructure."
Running other VMs
The previous 3.6 version of RHEV had a virtual-to-virtual migration option that allowed it to pull VMware-based VMs and convert them to KVM workloads. RHV 4.0 will wrap this in a graphical user interface modeled on its user-friendly Cloud Forms management product, which lowers the entry barrier to using and managing VMs and containers.
Future versions of RHV will spend more time and resources on developing container infrastructure.
"We're building towers of abstraction, layer on layer," Hellekson said. "A container needs to run on something, and the vast majority of companies are doing so on virtualized environments. For RHV 4, we can run Atomic or RH guest hypervisor VMs on a virtualized infrastructure and get insight into the container workloads as well."
Red Hat is also planning a Real-Time Hypervisor as part of a future RHV version, according to the company. The primary goal isn't better performance, but more consistent performance and much lower latencies. RT could open up virtualization to totally new classes of time-sensitive software that were avoided in the past. This effort would combine work already done on the real-time Linux kernel with Red Hat's KVM leadership to ensure the host and guest work together properly.
Current testing in RT development shows the maximum time for a forking op in a real-time kernel is at 27 microseconds vs. 574 microseconds for a non-real-time kernel.
At this point, Red Hat said its KVMs run at 95% the speed of a bare-metal installation by many basic metrics.
The container strategy
Red Hat focused on containers with the launch of its enterprise-ready container application platform, Red Hat OpenShift 3, and added container management to its CloudForms management product. In addition, the software company introduced Red Hat Container Certification for its vast independent software vendor ecosystem. It also partnered with Black Duck Software on container scanning.
Red Hat CloudForms 4.1, the latest version of its open hybrid cloud management software, now supports greater choice and flexibility for customers running hybrid cloud workloads on Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services, and now also Google Cloud Platform.
In an example of using Red Hat CloudForms for VM provisioning, General Mills provisioned 395 VMs, saving roughly 200 hours of work. In addition to time savings, users typically receive their VMs much faster -- about 15 minutes -- when requested through CloudForms instead of a manual process.
In a hybrid cloud environment, software-defined storage becomes a necessity. Combining Linux containers with software-defined storage, Red Hat is one of the first vendors to enable this transition with the launch of containerized Red Hat Gluster Storage, available now via the Red Hat Container Registry.
The Red Hat Container Development Kit is a prebuilt VM container development environment to help sys admins and developers get started with container-based applications. It can be run on any local machine via KVM, VirtualBox or VMware, or it can be run in the cloud. The generated containers can then be easily deployed on any Red Hat platform, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Linux Atomic Host or OpenShift Enterprise 3, its platform as a service.
"Where we are going to is container apps as the dominant way of consuming services, but still on an OpenStack infrastructure," said Radhesh Balakrishnan, Red Hat's general manager for OpenStack.
Red Hat's pitch in the hybrid cloud arena matters, because it says it has all the pieces on a single development platform and full integration capabilities.
Using containers and VMs
Approaches to the hybrid cloud model
Compare KVM virtualization