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RHEV proves to be a cost-effective alternative to vSphere

Some IT departments have turned to low-cost, flexible virtualization platforms, such as Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, to lower VMware costs.

BOSTON –As IT budgets become thinner by the day, organizations seek cost effective and flexible server virtualization platforms.

For one state university’s IT department, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) have achieved both.

“We’ve been running VMware for quite some time,” said Mark Wiggins, enterprise virtualization administrator at the University of Connecticut during a session at the Red Hat Summit here this week. “We thought RHEV was a good, less expensive alternative to VMware.”

UConn currently runs a 34-node VMware Inc. vSphere 5.0 environment with over 450 virtual machines (VMs) on both Linux and Windows, but has recently gone over the 200 VM mark of Linux instances virtualized on RHEV.

“My plan is to migrate as many of the RHEL instances to RHEV so that there will be one solid stack, running RHEL on RHEV and all managed by a Satellite Server," Wiggins said.

About two years ago, Wiggins’ department began to virtualize and standardize on Linux. UConn initially tested RHEV 3.0, before installing RHEV 3.1 last October.

“Our Red Hat implementation right now is going from zero to 60,” Wiggins said. “The only reason RHEV isn’t where we want it to be is that I don’t have the time to get it there yet."

UConn has saved close to 50% on RHEL and RHEV compared with what they spent on VMware in the past, according to Wiggins.

While RHEV doesn’t mandate specific storage requirements, it does contain a central storage repository. The underlying kernel-based VM hypervisor is then integrated into the Linux kernel, which is where the cost savings comes into play, as well as security and performance improvements from other platforms.

With the cost savings, Wiggins plans to expand his RHEV environment. 

“Our plans are to allow other schools on campus the ability to buy virtualized servers from our central IT department,” Wiggins said. “Offering RHEV out as well as VMware just offers a less expensive option. Unfortunately, there are other departments on campus that are heavily invested in VMware.”

Wiggins said he found the SPICE console access to be the biggest stumbling block when transitioning to RHEV.

“There are a lot of times we provision a VM and then hand it over to the admin of the server and they can easily gain console access to their VM through the VMware client,” Wiggins said. “Unfortunately, when the person is a Chrome user or isn't using the exact combination of IE running on Windows with the right plugins, they're less likely to want to jump through any hoops with RHEV.”

Server virtualization choices aplenty
RHEV has indeed proven to be a player in the server virtualization field; however vSphere continues to be the popular choice.

Of the 1,155 respondents to TechTarget's recent Data Center and Reader's Choice 2013 survey, more than 58% said they use VMware ESXi 5 or later, compared to 9.8% who said they use Red Hat Enterprise Linux-based KVM.

Other server virtualization options commonly deployed include VMware ESX 4.x (28.6%), Microsoft Hyper-V 3.0 (20.7%) and XenServer 6.0 or later (14.4%).

VMware has never been considered the most economical option, but remains the top choice due to features. For example, vSphere 5.1’s vMotion supports live migration across vCenter servers that don't share storage, while RHEV requires a minimum of two RHEV hosts connected to shared storage.

In addition, vSphere also offers VM replication, and is considered a feature of the platform itself, rather than just a subset of Site Recovery Manager.

RHEV shares a number of features with vSphere, however, including support of up to 2 TB of RAM per VM.


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