When thinking of open source virtualization solutions, many seem to first think of Linux command lines that require lengthy complex lines of code to create and manage virtual machines (VMs).
Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV), despite being based on Linux and KVM, now offers the same capabilities as VMware to your customers for a much lower price.
There are at least two nodes in a typical RHEV environment, and in many cases there are many more. First there is the RHEV Manager. In version 2.3, RHEV Manager is an application that’s installed on Windows Server 2008 R2 and is used to create and manage the virtual environment. Because solution providers manage the environment from a browser, they can use any platform they prefer.
VARs can also use RHEV manager to manage the virtualization hosts. These are servers and are either running RHEV hypervisor or a full installation of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). RHEV hypervisor can be best compared with VMware ESX and is a thin, minimal OS that uses KVM to host VMs. Like ESX, it works similar to a black box and you won’t get involved with it very often. VM creation and management happens completely in the RHEV Manager node, so the Linux part of the solution is almost invisible.
Another solution to host VMs is RHEL, which is a complete Linux server installation On the RHEL server, all typical Linux tools are easy to use if you encounter problems with VMs and need to, for example, open and repair a non-starting VM’s disk images. Keep in mind that you will hardly ever have to deal with the RHEL command line.
With RHEV, you can create complete virtual environments for servers and desktops. RHEV for servers includes features, such as high availability and load balancing, that other products only offer as additional purchases. RHEV for desktops also provides Active Directory (AD) integration to easily associate VMs with user accounts.
Future RHEV development
Red Hat has already received its share of criticism from the open source community for offering RHEV. It relies on Windows Server and AD in its current version, and a company using open source software as the core information and communication technologies environment doesn't typically like that. Windows is a required component in the current version because it has been purchased and was completely developed in .NET. At the moment, Red Hat engineers are working on a completely reengineered version that will be offered on Linux. In this new version, apart from AD, Lightweight Directory Access Protocol-based directory servers can be used for authentication as well.
RHEV is a key product for Red Hat, and in coming years, Red Hat sees an increasing role for cloud computing with the Red Hat Enterprise Cloud solution using RHEV to easily deploy virtual servers. No dates have been made official but Red Hat employees have talked about "later this year." The upcoming release is no reason to wait on implementing RHEV for your customers because a fairly easy migration to the upcoming version is expected. At the back end, the RHEV hypervisor nodes won't change and it's just the management experience that will be different.
The current RHEV offering is an excellent solution for creating a virtualized IT infrastructure for customers without one. But it won’t replace many VMware environments because of the dependency on VMware is so high after installation and the huge investment that goes into VMware environments. That may just be among the most important reasons to offer RHEV to customers and give them the freedom to choose the software he or she wants to work with.
About the expert
Sander van Vugt is an independent trainer and consultant living 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 writer of various Linux-related books, such as Beginning the Linux Command Line, Beginning Ubuntu Server Administrationand Pro Ubuntu Server Administration.