Virtual Machine Management Battleground Shifts to VMware vs. Red Hat

More on virtual machine management

Red Hat is making plans to beef up its virtualization management software so it can compete with VMware on a more equal footing in the future.

Red Hat is laying the groundwork to beef up its virtual machine management software so it can compete with VMware on more equal footing in the future.

The Raleigh, N.C. based Linux vendor launched its Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization for Servers (RHEV) bare-metal hypervisor solution in November last year, two months after the launch of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5.4 — with-KVM-based virtualization built-in. RHEV is made up of two components: the KVM-based hypervisor itself, which is essentially a stripped down RHEL kernel, and RHEV Manager for Servers, a Windows Server 2003-based virtualization management system that gives administrators control of virtual machines running on the RHEV hypervisor or RHEL-with-KVM hosts, and the hosts themselves.

Many attribute VMware's dominance in virtualization to its strong management infrastructure, and the relatively immature RHEV Manager can't yet match VMware's management systems feature-for-feature at the top end. However, it does include high availability, system scheduler and storage management, as well one particularly key feature: live migration (or what VMware calls VMotion).

Live migration is the ability to move running virtual machines from one host to another without downtime when the virtual disk files reside on a shared storage substrate. Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor faced criticism when it launched precisely because it lacked a live migration feature, so it is not at all surprising Red Hat included the functionality at launch.

Two features VMware offers that RHEV Manager lacks are the ability to carry out the live migration of virtual disk files — what VMware calls Storage VMotion — and functionality similar to what VMware Consolidated Backup delivers. But it's a problem Red Hat plans to put right. "We don't have Storage VMotion yet, but we have it on our roadmap, and we don't have an equivalent to VCB right now, but that will change," said Navin Thadani, Red Hat's senior director, virtualization business. When it comes to a VCB equivalent, he said it's not necessary yet because most customers are happier to back up their virtual machines in the same way they back up their physical machines, using backup agents running in the virtual machines. However, agents running on virtual machines can hog resources of the physical hosts during backups, and as virtual machine usage increases it's likely Red Hat customers will begin demanding agentless solutions. "We are talking with our partners, and we will have something like VCB in the future. You will be able to do an apples-for-apples feature comparison between us and VMware," he promised.

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This article was originally published on Feb 24, 2010
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