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Red Hat open sources RHEV virtualization management tool

Red Hat says the new oVirt project to develop its RHEV-M will result in sophisticated open source virtualization management tools, but so far it’s being met with a lukewarm response.

Red Hat’s Enterprise Virtualization management software has been open sourced through the oVirt project. But it’s not the only open source virtualization management tool on the market, and users say it will take more than this move for KVM to catch up to VMware.

Red Hat announced the move on Thursday flanked by Canonical, IBM, Intel, NetApp, SUSE and Cisco Systems, a noteworthy new partner. The project combines the Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization management (RHEV-M) code, the Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) hypervisor, the oVirt node for running virtual machines (VMs) and virtualization tools such as libvirt and v2v. 

The oVirt node has existed for years as “a small scaled down version of Fedora used solely to host virtual machine guests,” according to the Fedora Project. But Red Hat reps say this is a different animal.

“The previous oVirt project has become a sub-project – it’s a reuse and a handing over of the brand [from Fedora],” said Carl Trieloff, Red Hat's technical director and one of the board members of the current oVirt project, which started in early November.

Users are glad that Red Hat is open sourcing the management tool it acquired with Qumranet in 2008.

“Since Red Hat owns the company that invented KVM, it's probably a good move from an open source perspective,” wrote Paul Ferrill, CTO at a government contractor focusing on large-scale data analysis systems and software, in an email.

“The addition of Cisco to the oVirt project brings the biggest name in networking to the virtualization management table,” Ferrill added. “This should pay off in terms of their contributions to managing virtual networks and the various components."

OVirt’s to-do list 

However, according to Greg Scott, chief technology officer for InfraSupport Corp., a firewall maker that is a Red Hat and VMware partner, the move is “one milestone among many… not a big stop-the-presses milestone.” That will come when a future version of RHEV achieves complete feature parity with VMware, maybe after version 3.0, he said.

What’s missing? A smoother physical-to-virtual migration process -- Red Hat requires a more elaborate setup than competitors, with a separate migration server and an NFS server, Scott said.

“I would also like to see RHEV-M be able to manage mixed KVM environments that include Fedora versions of libvirt,” he added. “I’m eagerly looking forward to that happening.”

VMware also has more flexibility when it comes to networking, especially with the support of networking giant Cisco and the Nexus 1000V virtual switch. But Cisco has gone from exclusively partnering with VMware to announcing it will support Microsoft Hyper-V 3.0 next year. It’s therefore not out of the question that joining the oVirt alliance is a stepping stone to supporting KVM. Red Hat’s Trieloff declined to comment on specific products, and Cisco reps did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.

Still, while open source hypervisors have been on VMware shops’ radar this year, this week’s news does little to change the race to catch up to the virtualization bellwether, according to Dave Bartoletti, an analyst with the Taneja Group.

“I think there’s a fairly low cost to adding one’s name to a new open source project,” Bartoletti said of Cisco’s participation. “I don’t think showing extended support for Red Hat virtualization means anything to the competitive picture.”

OpenStack overlap?

Nor is Red Hat alone in the market for open source virtualization management tools. Offerings such as Convirture’s ConVirt and OpenQRM have also been available for some time.  A unified open source cloud management stack also already exists in the form of the OpenStack project.

Red Hat says RHEV-M is more sophisticated than other open source virtualization management tools, and that oVirt differs from OpenStack in that it’s focused on the enterprise data center rather than service providers. That said, Trieloff conceded that oVirt and OpenStack may overlap.

“Members of OpenStack did attend the launching event for oVirt,” he said.

Some industry observers think there’s room for improvement in the open source virtualization management world.

“With the joined forces of these important players all working together on oVirt, the market might see a serious and full-scale open source management interface in the future,” said Sander van Vugt, an independent trainer and consultant based in the Netherlands.

But not everybody’s buying the differentiation between oVirt and OpenStack.

“It seems like a defensive move for Red Hat to not get left behind against OpenStack, which is quickly gaining ground and momentum [with] Citrix Xen,” said Jeffrey Papen, founder of Peak Web Hosting Inc., which uses open source Xen.

Meanwhile, “Cisco, Intel, and NetApp… all have something to gain by playing every partner option, because whoever wins drives business to them,” Papen added. “In reality, I see [oVirt] as Red Hat alone, with the other companies hedging their bets.”

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Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for Write to her at

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