Three strategic virtualization initiatives were the stars of the show as Linux powerhouse Red Hat opened its Red Hat Summit today in Boston. What do the Red Hat moves mean to you? More options in open source virtualization tools and a new open source effort around virtualization security, for starters.
The Red Hat move that will catch the eye of most users is the Embedded Linux
Hypervisor, oVirt. This is a
lightweight, embeddable hypervisor that currently lets you run Red Hat
Enterprise Linux and Microsoft Windows VMs (virtual machines) on Linux.
What makes this more interesting than just another virtualization
announcement: you will be able to carry oVirt-customized VMs from
PC to server to what-have-you in your pocket on a USB key drive, Red Hat says.
The open-source oVirt hypervisor, now available as a beta, is based on
the KVM project. KVM, in turn, has been an
integral part of the
Linux kernel since February, 2007. In other words, this is not pie-in-the-sky technology. It’s founded on existing virtualization technologies.
At this point, followers and users of Red Hat Linux may be asking, “What about Xen?” (the best-known open-source hypervisor technology to date.) Red Hat, according to Red Hat executive VP Paul Cormier, will continue to support both Xen and KVM. But, because
“KVM is now baked in to the Linux kernel, it’s very easy for both Red
Hat and other developers to work with it,” Cormier says. For the time being, Xen will
continue to be important, but, as time goes by, Red Hat sees KVM
becoming the dominant virtualization technology, he says.
The key difference: while Xen works well with Linux, it’s an
add-on. KVM, on the other hand, is an integral part of Linux. For now,
Xen is the more mature of the technologies, but KVM is coming on fast
and promises to be more useful for developers, Red Hat is betting.
At the end of the day, Red Hat sees KVM-based Linux distributions replacing operating system
distributions, which don’t incorporate virtualization. In tomorrow’s
Linux, Red Hat sees virtualization becoming simply another standard
operating system feature.
While the idea of keeping a selection of virtual machines in your pocket
is entertaining, Red Hat’s Virtual Infrastructure Management technology is more
likely to grab a CIO’s attention.
This set of management technologies for x86-based Xen and KVM
virtualization programs is also available at the oVirt Web site as a
beta. Red Hat claims that this architecture enables customers to
implement cloud, Software as a Service (SaaS), appliance and traditional
server infrastructures across one management platform.
Last, but in the long run perhaps the most important of Red Hat’s new
virtualization developments: Red Hat is offering virtualization
security management technologies. In the rush to cut data center costs
with virtualization, it’s only recently that some CIOs have become painfully
aware that they needed management and security tools for their 21st century
Red Hat’s new work in virtualization security is perhaps the least
mature of the trio of technologies. Still, Red Hat is working to make it
possible for administrators to manage identity and policy, while
simultaneously auditing system resources and application integrity. Want
to know more about this project? Check into Red Hat’s newly launched
FreeIPA project site. Red Hat will be more than
happy to have open source community help in creating open-source solutions that could
benefit every company that’s packing more and more work into fewer and
fewer physical servers.
Looking ahead, Stephen O’Grady, principal analyst with the open-source
analysis company RedMonk says,
“Much as it has in the operating system and relational database markets,
open source is poised to have a disruptive impact on the virtualization
space, lowering costs for customers and offering alternatives to
Based on its announcements today, Red Hat intends to be a player in that disruption.