Can't Migrate Virtual Machines Across Different Chips? Red Hat Can - InformationWeek

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11/24/2008
09:16 PM
Charles Babcock
Charles Babcock
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Can't Migrate Virtual Machines Across Different Chips? Red Hat Can

I had just finished moderating a Webinar, my first, on how enterprises architect their virtual environments. One of the takeaways was, beware of the impulse to migrate virtual machines. They have to go from like to like, when it comes to server chipsets. And the first headline I saw afterward declared that information obsolete.

I had just finished moderating a Webinar, my first, on how enterprises architect their virtual environments. One of the takeaways was, beware of the impulse to migrate virtual machines. They have to go from like to like, when it comes to server chipsets. And the first headline I saw afterward declared that information obsolete.One of the most popular features of VMware's management environment is VMotion, which one virtualization manager explained gave him "God-like powers" to move virtual machines around, while they were in use. One of the hidden gotcha's of the VMotion picture, however, was that the movement has to be between servers running the same chipsets, or chips that were members of the same family and so close in lineage that their own designer might not be able to tell them apart.

My online panel Nov. 6 touched on this subject, with experienced practitioner Jarett Kulm, director of data center operations at Planalytics, using his knowledge of the restriction to describe it more thoroughly. Then, after hanging up the line on the Webinar, I turned to the InformationWeek home site to read: "AMD, Red Hat Demo 'Live' VM Migration Across Platforms." This story described how a hypervisor was migrated across different chipsets, without a noticeable interruption to the end users.

I told this story to Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat, during a recent interview and he chuckled at the coincidence. If anyone doesn't believe it's possible, he said, there's a YouTube video that shows an end user machine powered by AMD chips running video in a virtual machine which is migrated to a server powered by Intel chips, "without dropping a frame," said Whitehurst.

The hypervisor involved was Qumranet's KVM or Kernel Virtual Machine, now part of the Linux kernel. Qumranet, by the way, is now part of Red Hat, purchased in a recent $107 million acquisition.

"This is a key focus for us. You'll see some really exciting things" as Red Hat brings more virtualization tools to the market to manage the KVM hypervisor, Whitehurst promised.

With KVM, virtualization becomes a feature at some point of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, with the built-in efficiencies of the hypervisor using the scheduler, memory manager, and other features of the Linux kernel. Red Hat hasn't yet adopted a version of the kernel for Enterprise Linux that includes KVM, but it's coming.

That makes Red Hat a runner at the back of the pack in the virtualization market with who knows what hidden reserves to propel it toward the front. We shall watch with interest how this race unfolds.

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