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RHV 4.3 updates take backseat to container-native virtualization

Most new apps start in containers nowadays. However, certain legacy applications still don't work with containers. RHV 4.3 hopes to help bridge the gap.

BOSTON -- Many new applications start in containers, but that doesn't mean VMs are falling by the wayside. There are some legacy applications that IT administrators can't deploy in containers, and the updates in Red Hat Virtualization 4.3 can help admins better manage both.

At Red Hat Summit 2019, executives outlined updates to Red Hat Virtualization (RHV) 4.3, the next version of the company's KVM-based virtualization platform, and also discussed how administrators can manage both VMs and containers with KubeVirt.

"We're just starting to explore the possibility of using containers," said Jason Spinola, senior systems analyst at PPG Industries, a coatings company based out of Pittsburgh.

Despite a shift toward containerization, it seems, for right now, there's still a place for both VMs and containers.

RHV 4.3 improvements

Enhancements to RHV 4.3 include Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 8 guest support, Red Hat OpenStack Platform 10, 13 and 14 software-defined networking (SDN) integration, IBM Power9 CPU architecture, an upgrade manager GUI, container-native virtualization 1.2 and a tech preview with OpenShift Container Platform (OCP) 3.11.

"From what I see, [the RHV updates] are just to make sure it's offering support for all of the new Red Hat products that have recently been released," said Sander van Vugt, an independent consultant based in the Netherlands. "The interesting news is SDN integration; I'd like to see how that works out for real. Also interesting is container-native virtualization 1.2, which seems to be a nice compromise between virtualization and containerization."

From what I see, [the RHV updates] are just to make sure it's offering support for all of the new Red Hat products that have recently been released.
Sander van VugtIndependent consultant

There are also fixes and/or changes to Ansible 2.7 commands and expanded roles as well as changes to RHV Host (RHV-H) with private virtual LAN and OpenSCAP, VMs live migration with CPU pinning, Windows Server Failover Clusters and the removal of 1-gen Spectre CPUs.

Additional improvements include better scaling -- from 288 vCPUs to 384 vCPUs, 4 TB of RAM per VM, and support for 5,000 VMs, 500+ hosts and 70 storage domains -- IPv6 support and new metrics deployment, including OCP 3.11-based and scale out.

RHV 4.3 will be generally available later this month.

RHV options

RHV 4.3 offers two different hypervisor models: the traditional RHEL OS with RHV packages and RHV-H, which is a slimmed-down basic hypervisor appliance.

Admins can use RHV Manager (RHV-M) to configure and manage RHV-H and RHEL. This includes applying updates, managing power as well as managing networks and storage. Admins who want to customize the hypervisor OS layout or package extensively should go with RHEL rather than RHV-H.

RHV use cases

Typical use cases for RHV include supporting performance-sensitive workloads; providing development and testing for traditional applications, and maintaining multi-hypervisor environments, including integration with OpenStack VMs and technical workstations, which provide vGPU capabilities to VMs. For certain apps that can't be deployed in containers, RHV can step in.

"We have a lot of demands for random Java installs and things like that for Oracle applications," Spinola said. "So, it would be nice to be able to roll out a container for an Oracle app so that we wouldn't have to rewrite all of our automation software and develop and fix that one particular instance because we could just kill the container and push out a new one."

VMs, containers and containerized VMs

Currently, some organizations use RHV to handle enterprise-class virtualization workloads for traditional applications, or any application that requires resiliency from the infrastructure. Moving forward, Red Hat hopes to focus on continued reliability, scalability and incremental improvements to meet the needs of enterprise VMs. However, many companies are looking ahead to a future where container use eclipses virtualization.

"We don't use containers yet, but we are thinking ahead about what we can do with containers," said Siva Subramanian, system admin at Southern Company, a gas and electric utility holding company based in Atlanta.

Red Hat first unveiled container-native virtualization (CNV) at last year's Red Hat Summit. CNV is a technology based on KubeVirt that some organizations use to handle cloud-native apps that rely on virtualization components or apps that they want to transition from VMs to containers on a single platform. KubeVirt enables admins to run a VM inside of a container and manage that VM using Kubernetes. Red Hat hopes to evolve and improve features and capabilities to decrease the function gap between traditional and container-native virtualization.

Containerized VMs inherit many features and functions from Kubernetes, including scheduling, high-availability and the ability to attach or detach resources. But containerized VMs also have many of the same limitations as non-containerized VMs: CPU and RAM limitations and those dictated by libvirt and QEMU. Also, these VMs can only run Linux and Windows guest OSes.

These containerized VMs use permanent virtual circuits (PVCs) to request persistent storage. Red Hat's Containerized Data Importer simplifies the process of getting VM images onto PVCs. They inherit a pod network by default, and Multus -- a container network interface that is separate from the network itself -- enables a direct connection to an external network if desired.

The future of RHV

In addition to full support for RHEL 8 as a guest, RHV will provide support for Open vSwitch. The virtualization platform will include storage offload and integration via CinderLib as well as a live storage migration progress indicator. Backup capabilities include changed block tracking for VMs.

RHV-M will provide an HTML-5 console called noVNC, UX improvements for VM portal, nested virtualization and the ability to import Debian and Ubuntu VMs from VMware and Xen.

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