Red Hat marries RHEV 3.1 hypervisor to Gluster storage

New CloudForms control freak and virty bundles for cloud builders

High performance access to file storage

Red Hat rules Linux and has its fifth of the server racket, and it wants to rule clouds and get more than that share. In fact, Red Hat needs to do that if it hopes to compete against Microsoft and VMware and remain relevant in the data center and the public cloud alike.

To that end, Red Hat has put out updates to its KVM-based Enterprise Virtualization hypervisor and its CloudForms cloud management tools, and is wrapping up its this code with Linux operating systems into tidy bundles that make it easier for IT shops to buy and deploy infrastructure clouds.

First up is the latest revolution on the RHEV hypervisor. RHEV 3.0, which came out in January of this year, was based on Enterprise Linux 6.2, launched a month earlier. RHEV 3.0 was a major update, with over 1,000 new features, enhancements, or bug fixes, including a management console that was ported from C# to Java and allowing the hypervisor to span 160 physical cores and 2TB of physical memory.

If you were expecting to Red Hat to push the envelope on hypervisor and guest scalability with the 3.1 release, you are going to be disappointed. Just like VMware with its ESXi hypervisor launched in August, Red Hat taken its foot off the gas in terms of scalability.

The KVM hypervisor built atop the RHEL Linux kernel can, in theory, scale across 4,096 cores and 64TB of physical memory, but the RHEV 3.1 scalability limits are exactly the same as for RHEV 3.0 – and not coincidentally, essentially the same as on ESXi 5.1.

The main reason why both VMware and Red Hat have both soft-pedalled scalability is that Intel did not launch its "Sandy Bridge-EX" Xeon E7 processors this year and there is no need at the moment to scale beyond 160 physical cores. That is the largest machine you can make using ten-core "Westmere-EX" Xeon E7-8800 processors in a sixteen-socket machine – which no one has made, by the way.

The practical top end for a Xeon E7 is eight sockets, or 80 cores. The 2TB limit of scalability for the RHEV 3.1 and ESXi 5.1 hypervisors seems a bit skinny, though, and it is surprising that both companies have not at least doubled it up for the largest configurations out there. HP's eight-way ProLiant DL980 supports up to 4TB of memory, for instance. But not many customers fully load the memory on their servers.

The virtual machine scalability with RHEV 3.1 is the same as with RHEV 3.0: up to 160 virtual CPUs and up to 1TB of virtual memory. ESXi 5.1 tops out at 64 virtual CPUs and 1TB of virtual memory per virtual machine.

According to the RHEV 3.1 release notes, the move to the RHEL 6.3 release to underpin RHEV 3.1 brings support for the Sandy Bridge family of processors (including Core i3, i5, and i7 chips used in desktops and some servers) and the "Bulldozer" generations of Opterons.

Frankly, El Reg is a bit surprised that the latest KVM hypervisor doesn't support the "Piledriver" family of Opterons from Advanced Micro Devices. The Opteron 6300s for machines with two or four sockets came out in early November and the Opteron 3300s and 4300s for machines with one or two sockets just came out this week. You would think that these would be supported already with both RHEL 6.3 and RHEV 3.1.

The big new feature that Red Hat is all excited about with RHEV 3.1 is integration with its Red Hat Storage, the clustered file system formerly known as GlusterFS. Shadowman acquired Gluster back in October 2011, and the Red Hatted version of GlusterFS, known as Red Hat Storage Server 2.0 technically, debuted in June. In November, when Rat Hat hosted a similar webcast to talk about the uptake for RHSS 2.0, the company said it was working on tighter integration between RHEV and RHSS. And with RHEV 3.1, what this means is that RHSS can be a target file system where virtual machines running atop RHEV sit.

Chuck Dubuque, senior manager of product marketing for virtualization at Red Hat, said that other POSIX-compliant file systems, such as IBM's GPFS could also be targets for VM storing. The RHEV 3.1 update also has direct LUN access for VMs, and sports a tech preview of storage live migration.

With VM live migration, you can move a VM from one physical server and its hypervisor to an entirely different server with a different instance of that hypervisor while that VM is running. (VMware calls it VMotion when you do it with ESXi.) With storage live migration, you take the storage affiliated with one or more VMs and you move it from one physical disk array to another one without interrupting the operation of those VMs. (VMware calls this Storage VMotion.)

Dubuque said that storage live migration is in tech preview now and would be available with a RHEV update in early 2013. The ability to manage RHSS volumes from within RHEV Manager, the console for the KVM hypervisor, is in tech preview as well.

Another interesting feature with RHEV 3.1 is CPU pinning, which allows you to do a very unvirtual thing and pin a virtual machine to a specific physical core (or multiple cores) on a server. You would do this for performance reasons, to squeeze the last bit of oomph out of a server. You can also do snapshots of live running VMs; before, you had to pause VMs before taking their picture.

Memory ballooning (telling VMs they have more memory than they actually have) is turned on by default in the new RHEV. The updated Shadowman system slicer has support for hot-plugging of virtual NICs and physical disks.

There is also another tech preview of a quota mode for the hypervisor, which can restrict CPU, memory, or disk capacity per user or per VM.

A starter kit for RHEV, which is a license for up to six server sockets, costs $2,994 for a standard support contract and $4,494 for a premium 24x7 support contract.

Cloud bundles and cloud control freak

Red Hat also today announced the next release of its CloudForms cloud management and virtual machine and application lifecycle management tool. CloudForms 1.0 came out in June along with RHSS 2.0, and with the CloudForms 1.1, Red Hat is adding support for LDAP authentication and adding a search engine to the library of virtual machines and applications that it creates templates for and manages.

CloudForms 1.1 also introduces systems groups, which as the name suggests allows for systems to be grouped and managed together (think of it as stackable VMs), and adds support for Korean, Portuguese, and Chinese (both simplified and traditional) languages. CloudForms is packaged based on the number of VMs under management, and costs $2,499 for a ten-pack of VMs.

To help cushion the installation blow for customers that are moving from server virtualization to clouds or who want to go straight from physical servers to clouds, Red Hat has cooked up some software bundles.

The Red Hat Cloud with Virtualization Bundle, as the first one is known, puts together RHEV 3.1 and CloudForms 1.1 and is the one that Red Hat is suggestion customers buy to go from physical straight to cloud. This bundle is not priced by socket, like standalone RHEL and RHEV are, but rather on a per-VM basis. Specifically, this virtualization bundle costs $4,999 for a ten-pack of VMs.

The Hybrid IaaS Solution (that's its actual name) mixes up RHEV 3.1 and CloudForms 1.1 but also adds in RHEL licenses as guest operating systems running inside of RHEV. This hybrid IaaS bundle (the hybrid means you can also manage RHEL instances on public clouds such as Amazon EC2) costs $11,499 for a ten-pack of VMs.

So it looks like Shadowman is testing out per VM pricing. ®

High performance access to file storage

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