Red Hat targets VMware, Microsoft with virtualization line

Red Hat Monday introduced a line of virtualization software to compete with VMware, Microsoft.

Red Hat Monday introduced an entire line of virtualization software aimed at disrupting the current market and leader VMware's position by giving customers an open-source option for virtualizing their data centers.

The new line includes the built-in virtualization of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) OS as well as two virtual-machine management products -- one for desktops and one for servers. Red Hat also is offering a stand-alone hypervisor called Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization.

The new products also position Red Hat more solidly against Microsoft, which has a line of virtualization-enablement and management technologies to accompany its popular Windows Server software.

Red Hat purchased Israel-based virtualization software vendor Qumranet last September and the new offerings are based on some of the technology from that deal. They also represent a migration from the Xen hypervisor, on which Red Hat based the virtualization included in RHEL 5, to the KVM (kernel-based virtual machine) hypervisor. KVM is based on the Linux kernel and is designed for high performance and stability.

Red Hat will continue to support customers using the Xen virtualization software through the lifecycle of the RHEL 5 OS, which is until at least 2014, the company said. The KVM hypervisor will first appear in RHEL 5.4, the next version of RHEL that is due for final release in the next few months. Red Hat released the current version of RHEL, RHEL 5.3, on Jan. 20.

Red Hat's virtualization line and news last week that Red Hat and competitor Microsoft will support customers running each other's virtualization software mean the heat is on market leader VMware, which had a rocky 2008 with the sudden departure of President and CEO Diane Greene amid financial woes. She was replaced midyear by former Microsoft executive Paul Maritz.

Microsoft and Citrix Systems also said Monday that they are working more closely together to compete better with VMware. Citrix plans to release a new suite of virtualization management tools in April that will be offered for Microsoft's Hyper-V and its Citrix XenServer virtualization software, the companies said.

Specifically, Red Hat's new product line includes the Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Manager for Servers, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Manager for Desktops, RHEL and the hypervisor.

The server virtualization manager product will provide a scalable, graphical user interface-based management system so enterprises can manage every object in a virtualized environment, be it a user, an image or a virtual server, said Navin Thadani, senior director of Red Hat's virtualization business.

Similarly, the desktop virtualization manager will allow enterprises to centrally manage, secure and enforce policies for a virtual desktop environment without interrupting the user experience, Thadani said. The software takes advantage of a technology called SolidlCE from Qumranet and the SPICE remote rendering technology.

Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Hypervisor is a small-footprint hypervisor that Thadani said would likely be most popular with customers who have limited virtualization experience. He defended Red Hat's decision to offer another stand-alone hypervisor to a market that already has several options of what is rapidly becoming a commodity technology, saying that Red Hat wants to give customers choice for their different virtualization needs.

Red Hat did not provide pricing information for its virtualization line. The company will introduce the products gradually over the next 18 months, with the first ones appearing in about three months, it said.

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