Red Hat takes aim at Microsoft, VMware with virtualization, cloud strategy

Red hat directs attention to hypervisor, virtualization management tools

CHICAGO – Red Hat this week lined up nose-to-nose with VMware and Microsoft laying out its bid to become a top-tier provider of virtualization and cloud computing infrastructure software for both the enterprise and service providers.

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The company released Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5.4 with an integrated KVM hypervisor and tagged the operating system as the foundation of an expanding virtualization and cloud computing portfolio.

Red Hat plans to add management tools for both virtualized desktops and servers before year-end, and unveiled a new open source project called designed to create a standard way to integrate public and private clouds and manage them from a single console. In addition, the company plans to certify the infrastructure of public cloud providers, like it does today with Amazon's EC2, and give end-users the option to run their Red Hat subscription software from any cloud, public or private.

It is the most ambitious undertaking by the company since CEO Jim Whitehurst came on board early in 2008 and brought to the finish line the resurgence of Red Hat's JBoss business

With that task apparently headed in the right direction after the shipment of JBoss Enterprise Application Platform (EAP) 5.0, the company will ramp up its investment in virtualization and cloud technology, according to Whitehurst.

He said the KVM hypervisor and the EAP 5.0 application server give Red Hat what it wants for its end-users, flexibility, openness and commoditized layers in the infrastructure software stack.

"We are not working to build a vision of future computing, we are building components that let others find their future of computing," Whitehurst said.

The effort, however, is not without hefty challenges.

"The problem from a company point of view is that they need to connect the tag line about not imposing visions but letting people create their own, they need to connect that with the low-level product announcements and put them in context, especially in a business context that is really clear," said Laurent Lachal, open source research director for analyst firm Ovum. He said Red Hat has yet to do that.

The company this week began to weave together that message at its annual Red Hat Summit, which attracted 1,500 attendees.hypervisor that is part of the Linux kernel, is key to that process.

The addition of KVM, a

KVM makes RHEL Linux deployments look the same whether they are virtual or physical, Whitehurst said.

"All of those thousands of man years of work put into processes and management for Linux can be applied to virtual instances," he said. "We can take KVM to customers and talk about how we can fundamentally improve the performance of their data center from hardware enablement to distributed management."

The strategy is similar to what Microsoft is doing with its proprietary Hyper-V technology that is built into the Windows operating system, but markedly different from VMware, which offers a hypervisor with a connected set of management tools.

With RHEL 5.4 and KVM now released, Red Hat plans to add to the mix by year-end a standalone hypervisor called Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Hypervisor and a cache of open source management tools.

Those tools are the product of last year's $107 million acquisition of Qumranet and include Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Manager for Servers, which will support features such as high availability, live migration and a scheduler. The companion product, Enterprise Virtualization Manager for Desktops, will offer a full VDI environment and support for SPICE remote rendering technology.

The APIs from those tools will be merged into Libvirt, the current virtualization API used by Red Hat, around the time RHEL 6 is released, according to company officials.

"The tools will be on par with VMware's base management platform," said Paul Cormier, president of products and technologies for Red Hat. He says Red Hat will rely on partners to broaden the capabilities of the base platform.

In addition, the tools also will be positioned for managing public clouds, creating a link between internal networks and hosted platforms.

"Today we can schedule jobs remotely in the cloud, but the other thing is being able to provision to a public cloud, or monitor or spin up virtual machines, and do it from your management platform," Cormier said.

As part of its push to public clouds, Red Hat plans to certify the platforms of public cloud providers so users can take their Red Hat software subscriptions and move them out to the cloud while retaining full support. Today, only Amazon's EC2 has Red Hat's public cloud certification.

"That will give users choice and flexibility," said Brian Stevens, CTO and vice president of engineering at Red Hat. "The certification will bring tens of thousands of Linux tools certified for RHEL into the cloud."

In addition, Red Hat this week started the project, a REST-based open API to infrastructure clouds. "If you build your scripts, your programs, your management software to the DeltaCloud API then you can work against whatever public clouds that the community builds drivers for. This starts to get into inter-cloud compatibility," Stevens said.

He said the API layer is like a cloud broker and a better solution then trying to standardize on one API every cloud provider must adopt.

The comparison was a shot at VMware, which announced this week that it would submit its vCloud API to the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) for standardization.

To highlight, Red Hat also will release DeltaCloud Portal, a Web-based console written to the DeltaCloud API.

In addition, Red Hat is updating Red Hat MRG, its application orchestration management software, to include a cloud integration capability that lets users tie together resources from private grids, virtualized internal environments and public clouds.

"Red Hat gets it," says Derek Chan, head of digital operations for Dreamworks Animation, which recently released the 3D animation film "Monsters vs. Aliens."

The company produced the film using a Red Hat-based compute grid that can scale to more than 20,000 cores over four geographic sites. Chan says Red Hat has all the pieces for future cloud computing – in-kernel virtualization, management tools, an application orchestration layer and a cloud abstraction layer.

It all adds up to one challenging project for Red Hat to expand virtualization and management capabilities to any cloud-based environment. 

"We are missing pieces but we have more of the pieces than anyone else," Cormier said. "It's all about applications. And applications either talk to the OS or they talk to the middleware. One or the other."

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