Red Hat RHEV freed from Windows fetters

The new Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization beta can support up to 64 virtual CPUs across 2 terabytes of memory

With the next release of its Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) package, Red Hat has finally rid itself of one of its most notorious dependencies, namely the use of Microsoft's Windows Server and SQL Server.

The beta of RHEV 3.0, released Tuesday, will be the first version of the virtualization package that does not require a copy of Microsoft Windows Server to run the management console, said Navin Thadani, Red Hat senior director of virtualization business.

For a company that prides itself on contrasting its open-source strategy against Microsoft's proprietary software model, RHEV's reliance on Windows has been seen as an inconsistency.

The new beta version also shows that the company has put forth considerable effort in allowing the software to handle larger workloads, which should make it competitive with another chief rival of Red Hat in the virtualization space, namely VMware.

"VMware is not the only game in town," Thadani said. "We're in a really good position to capitalize on the growing demand for alternatives to VMware."

Introduced in 2009, RHEV is unique in the virtualization market in that it combines in one console the ability to manage both virtual servers and virtual desktops. The software has gained a number of high-profile users since its launch, such as IBM, NTT Communications and DreamWorks Animation--though Thadani declined to offer an estimate of how many RHEV deployments exist in the wild.

The reliance on Windows Server was unusual given Red Hat's insistence on using open-source software for its own offerings. But Red Hat had acquired the management console for RHEV through its 2008 acquisition of software vendor Qumranet, which provided many of the components of RHEV. For Qumranet, Windows provided an adequate foundation for managing virtual desktops, said Thadani, who worked for Qumranet prior to Red Hat's purchase.

This version of RHEV includes a completely new console, one built with Java that runs on Red Hat's JBoss Enterprise Application Platform, which itself runs on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). A browser-based console replaces the standalone Windows program packaged in the previous version.

The new environment will be familiar to those who are comfortable with Linux. Instead of SQL Server, RHEV will deploy the PostGres open-source database. Previous versions forced administrators to use Windows Server's PowerShell to automate tasks through the use of scripts. They now can use the Linux command-line interface to run scripts instead. Red Hat also offers an API (application programming interface) that will allow third-party management tools to operate RHEV. Users of RHEV can still use Microsoft's Active Directory for authentication purposes.

Beyond the revamped management console, the software has undergone significant improvements in scalability. It can now support as many as 64 virtual CPUs and 2 terabytes of memory for hosts, an increase over the previous limit of 16 virtual CPUs and 256 gigabytes of memory per machine. In contrast, Version 5 of VMware's vSphere, released in July, supports up to 32 virtual CPUs and 1 terabyte of memory.

RHEV 3.0 is an improvement on its predecessor in a number of other ways as well. The KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) hypervisor has been upgraded to the latest Linux kernel in RHEL 6. The new version can also use local disks, whereas the previous version could only use shared storage. And for the VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) deployments, Red Hat's SPICE (Simple Protocol for Independent Computing Environments) has been updated to speed up streaming performance over WANs (wide area networks).

The company expects to release the final production version of RHEV by the end of the year, Thadani said.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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