It's easy for a virtual machine user to feel left out these days, what with containers dominating the discussion of how to run applications at scale. But take heart, VM fans: Red Hat hasn't forgotten about you.
RHV (Red Hat Virtualization) 4.0, released today, refreshes Red Hat's open source virtualization platform with new technologies from the rest of Red Hat's product line. It's a twofold strategy to consolidate Red Hat's virtualization efforts across its various products and to ramp up the company's intention to woo VMware customers.
RHV now uses a smaller hypervisor derived from RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) 7.2. When running RHEL Atomic Host, Red Hat's new container-centric breed of Linux, admins have introspection and management powers for containers running on those hosts.
RHV also plugs into two other major Red Hat infrastructure projects, Red Hat CloudForms and Red Hat Satellite. CloudForms allows RHV to be managed as one of many different kinds of cloud resources, both public and private, through a common interface. Right now, Red Hat focuses on CloudForms managing RHV in a lab setting, so it should be considered a first step and not a final one.
Other changes in RHV, such as to management and automation, seem aimed at least as much at enticing VMware users as they are at satisfying existing RHV users. VMware enjoys a massive culture of monitoring and dashboarding tools, and some of the new simplified system dashboards rolled out with RHV 4 play like an appeal to users of those tools. The same goes for new live-migration policies designed to cut down on the amount of time needed to achieve a live migration or the ability to upload KVM disk images to RHV through a browser.
Some of the improvements are forward-looking no matter what the rationale. A new networking API lets third parties integrate their own network management systems into RHV. For those who've already used Red Hat OpenStack, RHVM's networking can leverage OpenStack's Neutron networking-as-a-service component. But this seems more a case of bringing OpenStack to RHV rather than the other way around, as OpenStack has proven to be narrower in its appeal than other virtualization solutions.
Red Hat's pitch for convincing VMware customers that RHV is worth the switch echoes the case Oracle's competitors make for switching away from the database giant: It's less about technical or logistical difficulties than contractual agreements. The lifecycle of the current generation of Intel hardware is ripe for a refresh, Red Hat argues, and with that, many VMware ELAs will also be up for renewal -- a prime opportunity for Red Hat to make its case.
It's not a bad argument, although it makes a better case for Red Hat as one of many possible winners rather than the one to eat all of VMware's future lunches. VMware isn't likely to be directly affected by Dell's acquisition of EMC, even with Dell snapping up a majority stake in VMware stock.
VMware has become synonymous with old-school, old-guard technology, and that's more likely to make its users defect -- and not necessarily into Red Hat's camp. VMs are not going anywhere, but the VMware approach to them is another story. Red Hat is wise to pick up whatever VMware users it can as the tide turns.