In mid-June Red Hat became the latest (or should I say “late”) vendor to announce a stand-alone hypervisor for x86 server virtualization based on the Kernel Virtual Machine (KVM). This is a move away from their Xen based virtualization solution integrated into Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5.
The announcement of a beta version of the KVM hypervisor was made at the Red Hat Summit in Boston, MA. While at the summit, I attended the analyst love fests including the Virtualization Panel. It is what I did not hear at the Panel that I wish to discuss in this post. Red Hat introduced the KVM hypervisor as the next phase in server virtualization with Red Hat leading this “new wave”. To me, this immediately raised the question about Red Hat’s commitment and attention to Xen in RHEL 5. So I asked Red Hat if they were going to move to KVM from Xen in RHEL 6. Red Hat beat around the bush, avoiding the question by talking about how great LibVirt (an open source virtualization hypervisor abstraction library) is in isolating customers from hypervisor changes. A simple “yes” or “no” would have sufficed. I drew my own conclusions that Yes they will move to KVM in RHEL 6 (Note: to my knowledge, Red Hat has not made any such announcements about RHEL 6).
In Red Hat’s defense, this would make sense for them to do. They are behind in the server virtualization world. Case in point, they finally released their paravirtualized drivers for RHEL in May, nearly a year behind their competition in this space. With their limited resources, placing their bets on the hypervisor that has been accepted into the mainline kernel will leverage a larger community of open source engineers behind them. Red Hat did mention a few times at the panel that hardware validation and driver support with KVM will simply come in the mainline kernel releases from here on out, and this will benefit customers (and Red Hat more so).
So here’s my opinion: Red Hat should have shown bold leadership in that panel and said RHEL 6 will use KVM as the server virtualization hypervisor from Red Hat. That would have made the direction clear. As it stands now, the impression the audience received was that Red Hat’s virtualization future is not only lagging the industry but is muddy and fragmented.
[Posted by Richard Jones]