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Can RHEV 3.3 change public perception on open source hypervisors?

Red Hat released RHEV 3.3 this week, with features comparable to VMware and Microsoft. Does the open source hypervisor stand a chance in the market?

As the open source community continues to grow, some enterprises are faced with a dilemma -- stick with a proprietary virtualization option or move to an economical open source hypervisor.

Red Hat Inc. released Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) 3.3 Beta this week, with features comparable to VMware Inc.'s vSphere and Microsoft's Hyper-V. Questions about RHEV's viability as part of a cloud offering, however, remain.

RHEV 3.3 is designed to transition enterprises from virtualization to the OpenStack cloud. RHEV, combined with CloudForms and Enterprise Linux OpenStack, make up Red Hat's Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering, which was released in June.

"[Red Hat has] to start showing how [cloud service providers] are delivering Red Hat cloud services, and most important -- what is their hybrid cloud strategy?" said Wayne Pauley, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group Inc. in Milford, Mass.

"Where are Dell, HP, IBM, Oracle and Cisco with Red Hat?" Pauley said. "These are [or] could be key strategic partners who can build and sell 'cloud in a box' solutions with their [hardware]."

RHEV 3.3 includes new features such as OpenStack Neutron, which enables advanced networking capabilities by a host or virtual machine, and Image (Glance) integration that provides a set of building blocks through a library of images and instances that can be used by RHEV and OpenStack.

"Having virtualization solutions from Red Hat that allow integration with OpenStack building blocks and the ability with CloudForms to manage public cloud resources ... will help IT departments better grasp the constant evolution of infrastructure virtualization while remaining budget-conscious," said Ryan Murray, chief architect at Dallas-based Red Hat value-added reseller Sintre Technologies.

Concerns about moving to an open source community are overblown, he said.

"This fear has been predominantly fueled by the assumption that if the source code is available to all, then the product is more vulnerable to attacks and loss of stability," he said. "This couldn't be further from the truth ... with a plethora of engineers constantly reviewing and participating in open source projects, bugs and weakness in the code are brought to light much faster."

'Blended' virtualization

Integration among different virtualization management tools is also an option for those IT pros searching for more flexibility than any one vendor offers alone. Analysts stressed how important it is not to get locked into a single vendor.

"The challenge to businesses and IT is to be prepared for the inevitable blended virtualization approach," said Jason Helmick, senior technologist at IT consulting firm Concentrated Technology. "Choosing management tools that allow the IT pro to manage across virtualization platforms is important, especially when moving VM's from one platform to another."

Regardless of your preferred platform, whether it's VMware, Microsoft or Red Hat, Helmick said your business will naturally blend these based on need, cost and manageability.

The question then becomes whether Red Hat can convince enough users that it should be the preferred choice in the hypervisor market.

"Red Hat has to show how they can seamlessly manage vSphere and Hyper-V environments," Pauley said, "and why they are the better choice for multi-hypervisor environments."

One snag in Red Hat's attempt to gain market share is the relative lack of third-party vendor application support. The hope is that this new RHEV release will push third-party vendors to design products around Red Hat, rather than just for vSphere and Hyper-V.

"On the one hand, Red Hat has the advantage of owning a lot of the data center real estate from an OS perspective," Pauley said. "The question is, 'Can they move up from guest OS to cloud platform of choice?'"

Other features in RHEV 3.3 include workload balancing, deeper integration and support for Red Hat Storage, a new service-level agreement manager, and a pluggable scheduler.

RHEV 3.3 is available as a free download to existing customers or as part of a 60-day trial for new customers. Pricing details after the trial is up were not released.

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