Red Hat is adding management capabilities into Red Hat Linux designed to put Xen on more of an equal footing with VMware, the commercial market leader in virtualization.
Red Hat made its Anaconda installer software able to install virtual machines as well as regular software. And the Red Hat Network, which automatically sends out patches and upgrades to Red Hat customers, can now automatically update Linux in virtual machines as well as on physical servers, said Joel Berman, director of product management.
Red Hat's virtualization management capabilities will help Xen be more of a match for VMware's Infrastructure 3.0 management abilities. For example, Red Hat's Virtual Manager can move a running Xen virtual machine from one server to another without interruption to the user, a characteristic of VMware's VMotion, part of Infrastructure 3.
Red Hat's Virtual Manager can save a virtual machine to disk for shipment to a support center, where a technical glitch, which might otherwise difficult to duplicate, can be inspected. Virtual Manager can also take periodic snapshots of running virtual machines. If one fails after running one job for several hours, the restart doesn't have to go back to the beginning; it only needs to retrieve the latest snapshot and continue from there, said Nick Carr, director of product marketing.
If Red Hat customers don't want to upgrade all their applications to Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.0, they may continue running them in virtual machines under Red Hat 4.0 that have been activated on a 5.0 server.
"Virtual Manager will be an easy way to manage all of these options," said Berman.
Xen is an open source virtual machine hypervisor originally produced at the University of Cambridge, England. It makes use of hardware hooks built into the latest Intel and AMD chips to get the processor to perform tasks on behalf of several "guests" or virtual machines running above it instead of just one operating system. Xen's hypervisor approach is a more efficient form of virtualization than virtualization engines, such as Microsoft Virtual Server or VMware's early GSX Server, which sit on top of an operating system and sending messages to the hardware through it, said Berman.