Perhaps your Windows VMs should be running on Red Hat

RHEV is just three years old and not as well known as vSphere, Xen, and Hyper-V -- but it deserves a look

At Microsoft's TechEd conference earlier this month, I must have walked past the Red Hat booth a dozen times before it hit me that it wasn't displaying a desktop flavor of Linux. Red Hat was offering a virtualization product called RHEV (Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization). In a world dominated by EMC VMware, Microsoft, and Citrix, it's hard to stand out as a virtualization provider, especially if nobody knows you're even in that space. I stopped in my tracks and wondered just what was Red Hat offering.

RHEV 2.2 was originally released in June 2010. The latest version, 3.2, was released June 2013. Ultimately, RHEV is based on the KVM (kernel-based virtual machine) hypervisor that supports a wide variety of operating systems, including Windows, Linux, BSD Unix, and Solaris. (KVM was developed at Qumranet, a tech startup that Red Hat bought in 2008. RHEV is also based on the oVirt virtualization management platform, which Red Hat promotes.)

[ InfoWorld review: How RHEV compares to Citrix Xen, VMware vSphere, and Microsoft Hyper-V. | Doing server virtualization right is not so simple. InfoWorld's expert contributors show you how to get it right in this 24-page "Server Virtualization Deep Dive" PDF guide. ]

The ability to virtualize systems is hardly a sexy topic these days. It's now standard procedure in most data centers. Today the real questions for server virtualization vendors revolve around features and cost. RHEV has the features you'd expect, including central management of the entire virtual environment (virtual data centers, clusters, hosts, guest virtual servers, networking, and storage), high availability, live migration, policy-based workload balancing, image management, live snapshots, virtual machine clones from snapshots, and thin provisioning. Guest OS support includes both 32- and 64-bit versions of Linux and Windows (both the desktop and server versions), with a paravirtualized network and block drivers.

Features are one thing, but can RHEV scale? Each host can support as many as 160 cores and 2TB of RAM. Guests can support as many as 160 virtual CPUs and 2TB of RAM as well. Clusters support as many as 200 hosts. Supported storage includes iSCSI, Fibre Channel, NFS, local, Red Hat Storage, and other Posix-compliant systems.

Another interesting feature is the self-service portal that allows users to provision their own virtual machines based on permissions. Giving folks that ability can sure eliminate much of the red tape we see in some organizations where a server is requested and weeks (or months) go by before the bureaucracy gets into gear and delivers the VMs.

Red Hat is pitching hard that its pricing model is better than VMware's. Here's the math: Calculate your total socket pairs for your managed hypervisor host servers, choose a support level (business-hour or 24/7), and multiply your socket pair total by $999 (for business-hour support) or $1,499 (for 24/7) support. That's how Red Hat handles pricing.

RHEV is one to watch. It's fairly young, and Red Hat is actively acquiring companies to flesh out its ecosystem. You may think of Red Hat as just a Linux distro, but it's clear the company is deep into enterprise virtualization with competitive features and prices.

This story, "Perhaps your Windows VMs should be running on Red Hat," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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