Enomalism Helps Manage Virtual Machines

Tech Analysis: Enomaly's open-source Web-based management console sits atop Xen implementations.

Enomalys Enomalism Open Source Edition is a Web-based management console for the Xen hypervisor. Enomalism does not comprise a complete virtualization solution on its own; rather, it is meant to sit atop an existing Xen implementation, such as those that ship with many Linux distributions, including those of Red Hat and Novell.

Enomalism, which is freely downloadable, still carries a sub-1.0 version number—and with good reason. During our testing with the beta (Version 0.7.1), we encountered a lot trouble setting up Enomalism, most of which centered on getting Xen running properly.

The interface to Xen that Enomalism provides is compelling—we were particularly impressed by the products VMCasting feature, which we used to pull down template virtual machine images from a repository on the Internet. Enomalism ships along with an LDAP server, and the Web interface offers controls for managing users across multiple VMs.

Also enticing is Enomalisms virtual appliance package management interface and its optional support for migrating VMs to Amazon.coms Elastic Compute Cloud. In a more-finished form, such as once its come out of beta, Enomalism Open Source Edition will be a very promising entrant to the field of server virtualization tools.

Enomaly also sells an enterprise version of its Enomalism management console, which we did not test, but which can join together with a cluster of other Enomalism-managed Xen hosts to take on greater loads and to provide for failover. Also, the enterprise edition boasts expanded disk management tools and some virtual machine creation tools not available in the open-source version. However, the enterprise edition is stuck with the same platform integration issues that dogged us in our tests of the open-source edition.

Counterintuitive as it may sound, Enomaly must develop a strategy for integrating with particular Xen-hosting platforms if its to live up to its promise as an independent Xen management console provider.

/zimages/7/28571.gifThe open-source Xen virtualization project has moved from the bleeding edge to being deployment-ready. Click here to read more.

The trouble we had with Enomalism stems from the fact that while Enomalism does not, in theory, depend on any particular Xen implementation, the environment in which Enomalism is developed and has been tested is very particular: Fedora Core 6, running the tarball version of the Xen projects latest packages. Fedora Core 6 ships with its own Xen packages, but they are Version 3.0.3; Enomalism calls for the most recent, 3.0.4 release, straight from the Xen project.

Fair enough, but, inconveniently, the Xen project builds packages for Fedora Core 5, Red Hats RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) 4.4, and Novells SUSE Linux 9.3 and OpenSUSE 10. None of those will do for the more recent Fedora Core 6.

We therefore installed the Xen projects binaries—outside our test machines packaging system. We understand that Enomalism is in beta, but it was with reluctance that we strayed from the comfort of Linux package managers because installation via a one-off installer script can mean real manageability headaches down the line. For instance, the READ.ME that comes with the Xen projects tarball makes no mention of uninstalling the bits.

Whats more, while the Xen project has been busy working on Xen, distributions such as Fedora and OpenSUSE have been busy solving the issues that arise when you bring Xen into your operating system environment. Installing that Xen tarball straight from the project was like installing Xen a couple years ago. For instance, we bumped up against our old friend the TLS (Thread Local Storage) library warning, which was fixed in Fedora a long time ago.

We would have preferred to see Enomaly update the Xen package from Fedora 6 and leverage the integration work thats gone into Fedora. The packages for Xen 3.0.4 are in Fedoras development branch now, so part of the backporting work is already done for them. "Another tricky issue we encountered came when the Enomalism installer, in the course of installing dependencies for the Python-based TurboGears Web application framework from which Enomalisms interface is built, broke our test machines Yum software installer. While running through the installation process on a separate system, we learned that the issue arose only on a freshly-installed Fedora 6 instance without any updates applied. When we installed Enomalism on an up-to-date Fedora 6 machine, our Yum installation emerged unscathed."

Advanced Technologies Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at jason_brooks@ziffdavis.com.

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