Another Mandriva CS 4 virtualization option is OpenVZ, the open-source variant of SWsofts Virtuozzo product thats similar in architecture to Sun Microsystems Solaris Containers feature. CS 4 ships with kernels that include the OpenVZ patch set. OpenVZ is not yet part of the mainstream Linux kernel, so theres a definite value in Mandriva including the patch set. However, Mandriva doesnt appear to have taken any steps to further integrate OpenVZ into CS 4, and the distributions documentation makes no mention of OpenVZ. Rather, Mandriva support personnel directed us to the documentation available from the OpenVZ project site.Xen also is currently absent from the mainstream Linux kernel, so its nice to see that CS 4 provides a Xen-enabled kernel as well as documentation for setting up Xen virtual machines. However, Mandrivas Xen implementation lags well behind whats available with other distributions. For example, when we first tested Xen on Red Hat Fedora Core and Novell SUSE distros, we were required to work around a compatibility issue between Xen and Linuxs TLS (Thread Local Storage) libraries: We had to move /lib/tls to /lib/tls.disabled, lest we suffer reduced performance under a Xen-enabled kernel. In recent Fedora and SUSE versions, this hack is no longer necessary, but CS 4s documentation asked us to fiddle again with /lib/tls. We did disable TLS as asked during tests, but we still experienced an overall slowdown. We tried disabling /lib64/tls, since we were running CS 4 on a 64-bit system, but this step rendered CS 4s RPM package manager unusable, so we had to reverse it. Mandriva would do well to look into the Xen solutions that Red Hat and SUSE have pursued and integrate them into CS4after all, Red Hat and SUSEs work is open source and freely available to Mandriva for copying. Management options For system management and configuration tasks, Mandriva CS 4 offers administrators three different tool sets. Together, the tool sets cover most administration needs, but they would benefit from being better integrated with each other. CS 4s tools for software management, basic hardware configuration, network settings, mount points, security, boot loader configuration and miscellaneous other tasks are collected in the Mandriva Control Center, which more or less resembles SUSEs Yast tool set but with fewer modules. New in Mandriva CS4 is another, separate tool called FIBRIC (First Boot RPM Installer and Configurator). After we installed CS 4, the Web-based FIBRIC presented us with a list of roles that the CS 4 system could carry out. For instance, FIBRIC listed an Identity Server role, and offered to satisfy this role by installing an LDAP server, a Kerberos server or both. We liked the roles-based installation options, but we were concerned that FIBRICs Web interface didnt provide SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryptionparticularly given that FIBRIC required our root password to operate. Also, the configuration options that FIBRIC offered for the services we installed were rather thin. This brings us to Mandriva CS4s third independent management tool set, courtesy of the open-source Webmin project (webmin.com). Webmin is a Web-based interface for system administration tasks on Linux and Unix, with Webmin modules available for handling most configuration tasks. Although Webmin isnt the default administration tool for any major Linux distribution of which were aware, packages for the project are available for most distros. Wed like to see Mandriva more tightly embrace Webmin, and integrate the software more tightly. At the time of our review, Mandrivas hardware compatibility database did not include information on CS 4. For the previous release of the distro, CS 3, there were seven x86-64 servers and 14 x86 servers listed as certified. Advanced Technologies Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.
Mandriva needs to provide setup and management tools, and CS4-specific documentation, for OpenVZ before well consider the technology an integrated part of the product.