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Red Hat intros VMware hypervisor alternative based on KVM

Bridget Botelho
Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat Inc. has set itself up as the alternative to VMware Inc., with a collection of virtualization offerings that includes a new Linux-based bare-metal hypervisor and virtualization management and security products.

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The company made the announcement June 18 during the Red Hat Summit in Boston and expects the final versions to be available later this year.

A Linux-based hypervisor
The new hypervisor is a lightweight embeddable hypervisor for hosting Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and Windows-based environments, as well as Sun Microsystems' Solaris operating system. The technology is based on the Kernel-Based Virtual Machine (KVM) project, which was integrated into the Linux kernel in 2006.

"This will be the first time Linux has been used as a base of a hypervisor, which opens up the core development model to the Linux community," said Red Hat CTO Brian Stevens. This new hypervisor is completely separate from the Xen hypervisor, which also has ties to Linux, Stevens said. This hypervisor can be installed using a USB key that is booted onto a system along with Linux, he said.

Also included in the new hypervisor are support for live migration of virtual machines (VMs), clustering and high availability.

This will be the first time Linux has been used as a base of a hypervisor.
Brian Stevens,
CTORed Hat Inc.

"Virtualization, as a technology, is the next-generation operating system. There are only two companies that can provide all of the pieces of virtualization today, and that is us and those guys in Redmond," said Paul Cormier, Red Hat's executive vice president of engineering.

The hypervisor has a small footprint of about 40 MB, making it more secure than larger hypervisors, Stevens said. Comparatively, VMware's thin hypervisor ESXi offers all the functionality of ESX, but with a 32 MB footprint.

"We can fit onto a 64 megabit piece of flash, and since size matters in terms of security, this is important," Stevens said. "We also have broad-based support. It can boot on any x86 server hardware."

Red Hat will continue to invest in Xen, but Stevens acknowledged that this new KVM-based product does signal a shift away from Xen.

Breaking management tool lock-in
Along with the hypervisor, Red Hat also announced a new open source virtualization management platform that can be used on any x86 platforms. This is the first collaborative open source virtualization management product to enter the market, Stevens said.

The management tool is a Web-based platform that manages host systems, VMs and storage. It includes lifecycle and resource management, policies, auditing and monitoring, Stevens said.

"This [management tool] breaks the hypervisor-management lock in because it is built on open standards and has cross-platform support," Stevens said.

Red Hat also announced a new centralized security management technology for any type of hypervisor in mixed virtual environments through the FreeIPA project. Stevens said the security technology fills a critical whole in the open source architecture.

The security technology is built on Red Hat's identity, policy, and audit (IPA) technology using industry standards, including Lightweight Directory Access Protocol and the network authentication protocol Kerberos, allowing for integration into existing data center infrastructure, Stevens said. The tools are currently available for download in beta versions at oVirt.

Beta versions of these products are available today, and full product releases are slated for Q4 2008.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer. Also, check out our news blog at Server Virtualization log.


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