RHEV 3.0 Sets Stage for VMware Challenge

 
 
By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2012-02-28
 
 
 

The release of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization 3.0 signals that 2012 will be the year that IT managers at organizations of all sizes have real choices to make when it comes to virtualizing workloads in the data center. RHEV 3.0 and the Microsoft Windows Server 8 release candidate both offer a challenge to the currently unrivaled data center virtualization lead position held by VMware vSphere 5.

Until now, IT virtualization managers could use VMware vSphere without much question to run workloads of all types. RHEV 3.0 successfully challenged this operating assumption in tests at eWEEK Labs. The revamped Red Hat Enterprise Manager (RHEM) for Servers€” with sizeable increases in virtual machine (VM) resource allocations and tighter integration with the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.2 (RHEL 6.2)€”means that IT managers can begin to consider RHEV 3.0 a viable competitor to other virtualization platforms, including VMware.

RHEV 3.0 became available Jan. 18. RHEV for Servers Standard (business hours support) costs $499/socket/year. RHEV Premium (24/7 support) lists for $749/socket/year.

RHEV 3.0 is built on the Kernel-based Virtual Machine KVM) hypervisor, which itself started as a Red Hat project that was released to the open-source community.

HOW WE TESTED

I tested RHEV 3.0 at eWEEK€™s San Francisco lab by installing the RHEV Manager on an Acer AR 380 F1 server. It€™s equipped with two Intel Xeon X5675, six-core CPUs, 24GB of DDR3 (double data rate type 3) RAM, eight 146GB 15K rpm server-attached storage (SAS) hard-disk drives and four 1G bit on-board LAN ports. This powerhouse server provided more than enough compute power to run the RHEV Manager.

After setting up the RHEV Manager and integrating it with our iSCSI shared-storage system, I installed the RHEV Hypervisor on two other physical hosts: one an Intel-based Lenovo RD210 and the other an AMD-based whitebox server. After registering all the components with the Red Hat Network and ensuring that my test systems were correctly subscribed to the required channels, I was ready to fire up the RHEV Manager and start my evaluation.

RHEV 3.0 made significant infrastructure management improvements. The biggest news here for IT managers is the new REST API access that enables full access to the RHEV Manager. While this feature wasn€™t significantly tested in my evaluation of RHEV, it does set the stage for third-party management tool integration. IT managers who are making strategic decisions now about possible contenders for production-level data center projects should take note of this RESTful API access.

Making the interface available is only half the battle for Red Hat. IT managers should watch to see how quickly management vendors move to use the API to provide management tools. Because RHEV will likely be joining a data center environment that already has VMware installed, it will be particularly interesting to see if vendors that make VMware-centric tools add support for RHEV. If they do, then IT managers will have even more reason to add Red Hat to their evaluation list for enterprise virtualization projects.

Aside from the addition of the REST API, Red Hat added a number of important convenience features. For example, after installing my two RHEV Hypervisor physical hosts, I was able to approve them as members of the RHEV environment with a single click of the new €œapprove€ button.

The administrative portal interface now includes links to the administration and user portals, along with other changes that made it much easier to track my environment. A tree view is now used to show data centers, clusters, storage domains, physical hosts and virtual machines. IT managers who have experience with VMware€™s vCenter interface will quickly see the similarity between the two management system layouts.

There is now more granularity in user administration roles. I was able to use the revised User Portal to provide restricted access to administrative functions. After first integrating my RHEV 3.0 environment with the Labs Microsoft Active Directory services, I was able to assign roles to the users in the directory.

In my tests, I used the default roles that RHEV provided. In one case, I used the Network Admin role to restrict access to the networks in my eWEEK data center network. I was easily able to clone user roles and then make changes in permission levels for those roles. However, in most cases, IT managers will find that Red Hat has provided sufficiently differentiated roles in the default installation.

RHEV has joined VMware in supporting giant virtual machines. Although the eWEEK Labs test infrastructure isn€™t equipped to create these machines, there is little doubt that Red Hat can support the new maximum VM sizes that are supported in RHEV 3.0.

In this version, Red Hat supports up to 64 virtual CPUs and up to 2TB of RAM per virtual machine. This matches VM sizes currently supported by VMware and announced as supported in Microsoft Windows Server 8 Hyper-V.  
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