Novell Inc.'s SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 11 provides a fully functional Xen-based stack for server virtualization. But how does SLES 11 handle virtual machine (VM) management?
To start, let's be clear about one thing: SLES 11 was not developed as a dedicated virtualization platform. It is a generic server operating system, which you might as well use as a virtualization host or Apache Web server. Hence, good virtual machine management tools are hard to come by. It doesn't mean that SLES 11 virtual machine management is impossible; it's just different.
SLES 11 virtual machine management with libvirt
The most basic of the SLES 11 VM management tools is libvirt, a generic library that is included in most Linux distributions. Libvirt enables you to manage Xen and KVM platforms, but it is only a generic framework.
The most basic tool to use with libvirt is Red Hat Inc.'s Virtual Machine Manager, also known as virt-manager. This tool offers a view only of which VMs are available on the host to which virt-manager is connected . There is no easy interface to see where a specific VM runs. Because of this limitation, virt-manager is nice for small environments, but becomes unmanageable in larger virtualized environments.
For virtual machine management in larger SLES 11 deployments, you could use the hb_gui utility, but it was developed to manage clusters -- not VMs, specifically. You can use hb_gui to find out a VM's location and even perform migrations, but it displays all current activity in the cluster, which makes it difficult to get a clear overview of only the virtual environment.
SLES 11 virtual machine management with PlateSpin
If you need a more structured method for virtual machine management, Novell offers additional products through its PlateSpin line, which it acquired in 2008.
The go-to product is PlateSpin Orchestrate, which enables virtual machine management in VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V, Xen and mixed virtual environments. The key component is Orchestrate Server, which detects resources and performs management tasks by communicating to the agents that are installed on VMs and the host. And the Orchestrate Development Client enables virtualization administrators to create policies to automate certain tasks, such as dynamic provisioning.
With its broad platform support, Orchestrate goes way beyond SLES 11. Agents are available for most of the major hypervisors, and for Linux as well as Windows virtual machines. A large Orchestrate installation can quickly become complicated, however, which means that it takes a considerable amount of skill and time to set up.
Also, Orchestrate is not available for free, as is the case with other VM management tools for SLES 11.
Another PlateSpin product, Convert, turns physical machines into VMs and vice versa. And others can troubleshoot virtual environments and repair failures. But most PlateSpin products are perfect for Windows virtual machine management and do not work as well in SLES 11.
'Limited' VM management tools
The default VM management tools for SLES 11 are rather limited, but PlateSpin Orchestrate is an enterprise-level virtual machine management tool for heterogeneous environments. With this technology, you can configure your environment for automated VM provisioning.
Sander van Vugt is an independent trainer and consultant based in the Netherlands. Van Vugt is an expert in Linux high availability, virtualization and performance and has completed several projects that implement all three. He is also the author of various Linux-related books, such as Beginning the Linux Command Line, Beginning Ubuntu Server Administration and Pro Ubuntu Server Administration.