Red Hat moves into desktop virtualization

Beta release of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization includes virtual desktop support

Open source enterprise software company Red Hat has updated its virtualization platform, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (REV), to include support for desktop virtualization, the company announced Monday.

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The beta version of REV 2.2 will include a number of new programs that will allows customers to run a virtualized desktop infrastructure (VDI).

"It will allow you to deploy a RHEL [Red Hat Enterprise Linux] desktop, or Windows XP, or Windows 7, on a secure high-performance hypervisor platform," said Andrew Cathrow, who is a Red Hat senior product marketing manager. "By using a VDI, you are moving the [operating system] from the end user's device into the data center, where it is easier to manage and maintain."

REV is a package of a number of different Red Hat applications integrated for offering virtualization capabilities to the enterprise. It comes with a virtualization management console, as well as a bare-metal hypervisor, the Kernel-Based Virtual Machine (KVM). KVM is also included in Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). REV can run hosted versions of either Linux or Windows.

This version of REV includes the SPICE (Simple Protocol for Independent Computing Environments), for remote rendering of desktops. Red Hat acquired this software in its 2008 purchase of Qumranet. The package also includes a connection broker, a Web portal users log into to fetch their desktops form their client machines.

Formerly, the desktop capabilities were available as a separate stand-alone beta offering of REV, but with 2.2 the server and desktop editions are merged into a single package. "We believe it is important to have a common platform. Customers don't want to have one tool for desktops and one tool for servers," Cathrow said.

In addition to the desktop virtualization, REV 2.2 introduces a number of other new features.

Chief among them is the ability to import virtual machines from platforms, such as those offered by VMware, Citrix and Microsoft. To this end, REV uses the Open Virtualization Format (OVF), an open standard for virtual machine images. This is also the first release to include the V2V virtual machine conversion software, which can convert VMware or Xen virtual machines created within Red Hat Enterprise Linux into KVM virtual machines. The company also plans to add functionality that will allow the conversion of virtual machines that were built on Microsoft Windows platforms as well.

"It is very simple to migrate [virtual machines] from other hypervisor platforms into REV," Cathrow said.

In this release, REV also includes a data warehouse for monitoring the performance and usage of virtual machines, the data from which can be piped into most other SQL-based business intelligence tools.

Performance-wise, Red Hat has upped the maximum size for virtual machines, from 64GB to 256GB, and from 8 to 16 virtual CPUs. According to Cathrow, this expanded limit will allow organizations to run large enterprise applications, such as an SAP enterprise resource planning software, within a single virtual machine.

Although a latecomer to the virtualization market, Red Hat has been devoting a lot of resources to gaining a foothold in the space, hoping its cost of implementation will lure customers from the market leaders. "Essentially, if you're running RHEL, the hypervisor is free. And our management suite is dramatically lower-cost than our competitors," CEO Jim Whitehurst told IDG News Service last December.

Earlier this month, IBM announced that it would use REV as part of a cloud offering for test services.

Cathrow said that the final version of 2.2 should be released "by the end of spring." He did not divulge pricing of this subscription-based offering but noted that pricing for REV 2.1 is US$499 per socket for standard support and $749 per socket for premium support. Customers subscribing to version 2.1 will have the option to upgrade to 2.2 for no cost.

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