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Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Gets Managed

Red Hat has been talking about its new virtualization strategy for much of 2009. Today, the Linux vendor is making good on that talk with the release of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization for Servers, which includes a standalone hypervisor (RHEF-H) as well as a management platform (RHEV-M).

The new virtualization products are intended to help advance the adoption of virtualization and enable cloud computing infrastructure deployments.

"Today marks a milestone in Red Hat's virtualization roadmap, the immediate availability of RHEV-M an operational management system for virtualizing servers as well as RHEV-H a standalone, lightweight high-performance hypervisor built on KVM," Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) CTO Brian Steven said during a press conference. "With these additions to the virtualization product family, Red Hat has dramatically lowered the bar for IT to deploy and manage virtualized environments based on the RHEL [Red Hat Enterprise Linux] platform."

In February, Red Hat outlined its plan for a suite of KVM-based virtualization products. Red Hat previously had focused its virtualization efforts around the Xen hypervisor, but has since shifted to KVM in a big way -- in September 2008, acquiring Qumranet, the lead commercial vendor behind KVM, for $107 million.

Unlike Xen, KVM is part of the Linux kernel, which provides for a more efficient and optimized hypervisor, according to Red Hat.

The Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4 (RHEL) release, which came out in September, marked Red Hat's first deliverable from its new KVM-based virtualization roadmap.

Now, with the standalone hypervisor and the management platform, Red Hat is aiming to provide more robust deployment and management options to users.

"RHEL 5.4 with built-in virtualization is a platform for our existing customer base that has experience with Red Hat [and] want a flexible platform where they can use their existing tools," Navin Thadani, senior director of Red Hat's virtualization business, explained during the press conference. "For customers that are newer to Red Hat and are looking for an easy-to-use, out-of-the-box solution, we believe they will use the Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Hypervisor (RHEV-H)."

"Both platforms share the same common infrastructure from the Linux kernel and KVM perspective and both can be managed by Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Manager for servers," he said.

Thadani added that Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization for Servers includes high availability, scheduling, migration, power, maintenance and monitoring capabilities.

While virtualization is intended to help consolidate servers and avoid server sprawl, the problem could also afflict virtual machines. To that end, Thadani said Red Hat has included a search-driven interface to help administrators find items for which they're looking.

While the Red Hat solution is a Linux solution, it also will enable users to run guest Windows operating systems. Red Hat and Microsoft have jointly certified each others' virtualization solutions.

Yet from a competitive perspective, Thadani said that Red Hat's solution is cheaper to deploy than vendor solutions from VMware or Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT). To help prove the cost of ownership equation for users, Red Hat will be offering an online calculator to show how much a specific Red Hat configuration would cost as opposed to its competitors.

While Red Hat sees VMware (NYSE: VMW) as a competitor in some respects, Thadani said he doesn't view the new Cisco, VMware, EMC alliance as a threat. Earlier today, Cisco, VMware and EMC joined together in a new joint effort to integrate virtualization hardware, service and support.

"What we're talking here is a broad-based approach to virtualization across the datacenter, and we're doing that across a much larger ecosystem of hardware and software partners that includes Cisco," Thadani said.

Red Hat and Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) partnered this year around Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS), which is a key part of the Cisco, EMC and VMware alliance.

"We firmly believe that open source technology will increasingly be chosen for cloud deployment going forward," Thadani said. "From one sense, though, given that Cisco is a partner for us, we see their alliance as a complementary move forward for the industry."