Archive for March, 2009

Frustration with KVM

Virtualization Critical Comparison – Chapter 06

The title of this entry really gives everything away. I have not had a positive experience with my analysis of KVM. I have found KVM to be difficult to install, difficult to configure, difficult to use, and yes, frustrating. At times I enjoy using Linux, but Linux is not easy, not when you want to do something fast and quick. Many will scream that is not so, but objectively, it is true. This is where Microsoft Windows always trumps Linux, ease of install and use. And KVM is no exception. Of course Windows 2008 Core suffers from many of the issues that Linux does, in that Windows 2008 Core it is not trivial, when you have to do things sans GUI.

All I wanted to do was to have one Linux box as my remote management entity (Ubuntu Desktop with Gnome) and two virtualization hosts sans GUI, in effect a Dell 2850 and 2 Dell 2950s, of course NAS via Ubuntu based NFS as the storage back end. This seemed reasonable since I have used this same setup for VMware, Xen, and Hyper-V (using iSCSI) functional comparison in the past. But in reference to KVM, virt-manager and of course libvirt this was impossible on Ubuntu 8.1, since version virt-manager (and libvirt) integrated into Ubuntu 8.1, an unsupported configuration for remote virtual instance creation. Compile of KVM-84, since only KVM-72 is integrated into Ubuntu 8.1 is possible but throws more warnings than the highway patrol about drinking and driving on New Year’s eve. Of course there are 100s of examples of how to do all this via Google and every single one is different, and none of them worked quite right. No disrespect the respective authors; I am sure their respective setups worked, but not mine, they did not setup the way I wanted to setup.

To be fair, I did not make things easy; I used Ubuntu, which is not quite as easy to use as RedHat in some ways, and easier in others, a topic outside the scope of this blog. There is something to be said for commercial quality versus true open source, and Gentoo was even harder to get to a realistic functional level, even though it is my favorite distribution most of the time. RedHat of course, is not quite savvy with KVM, either, given that true integration is not until RedHat 5.4, and was once targeted 6.0 if memory serves. I found the communication of when and how KVM will be integrated into RHEL interesting and telling, but is a discussion for a different day. Of course I don’t have a copy of RHEL 6 or even 5.4 at hand, so Ubuntu it was. I have found Ubuntu 8.1 stable and consistent, but 9.0.4 Alpha 6 not quite where I needed it to be now, so that too impacted my experience with KVM so far.

This is not to say that Ubuntu is at fault, no, it is not. The real issue with KVM is founded in two key issues, at least two for me, even after I have a functional environment. First, KVM and Windows seem to have a love and hate relationship. This is a maturity issue if anything, and I am sure KVM will improve Windows support; it really must to take on VMware at any serious level. Of course KVM will support Linux well, that is an obvious winner. The real war between Linux and Windows has yet to happen, but it will, some day. Windows 2008 Core is just the introductive probe Microsoft has staged to target against Linux. Don’t be fooled, if Microsoft could figure out how to kill off Linux, Microsoft would. Second, I am not a fan of virt-manager or libvirt as yet. None of the basic components are as polished as I need them to be to see any rational parallel or competitive advantage that can threaten VMware vSphere. The libvirt process keeps dying on me for some reason, something that I am still trying to isolate. However, back to libvirt and virt-manager design, I am not talking about the greater feature set, that other platforms already have, including transparent migration, e.g. VMotion, but basic virtualization function. Of the three key components, KVM, virt-manager, and libvirt, I think virt-manager really is the worst; it just does not work well for me, at all. Even VMware ESX 2.0.1 would trump KVM, libvirt, and virt-manager as they exist today. How long ago was ESX 2.0.1 viable? About 5 years ago or maybe a bit less?

Serious development of KVM eclipsing QEMU has been what? About 2 years, give or take a bit? I guess I had unrealistic expectations so soon? Or is KVM losing some steam? Will RedHat dominate KVM to such an extent that it will fail the way Citrix has all but killed Xen? I reserve judgment for now. Do I need to wait for KVM, virt-manager, and libvirt to mature, at the same rate as VMware? I think not, I think RedHat and maybe IBM, among others will drive things at a faster pace. But today, right now, KVM is frustrating, due to its limitations. I really do want KVM to be successful, if for no other reason, than it will keep VMware on its toes! Something that Microsoft has not quite managed to do right so far, did I hear someone whisper System Center Virtual Machine Manager? Since VMware can be seen as the Neiman Marcus of virtualization, what does that make the KVM, virt-manager and libvirt solution, the Wal-Mart of virtualization? Not sure, I think Microsoft is really pushing to win the Wal-Mart parallel in the virtualization market. Therefore KVM will have to define its self somewhere between Wal-Mart and Neiman Marcus parallels?

Add comment March 31st, 2009

The Rise and Fall of KVM?

Virtualization Critical Comparison - Chapter 05

As I listen to the Halo original sound track, a sense of shock and ah creeps up on me, in tempo, to the music. What Halo sound track? Hey, I am a geek, get over it! But moving on to the topic at hand, I promised that I would deep dive into KVM, as I have with Hyper-V, and parallels between these two virtualization solutions, at least so far in my analysis are similar as well as not on some key points. I have by no means finished my dive into the virtualized ice supported by Hyper-V and KVM, but here is what I have in my notes so far. Expect this to change over time, as I get deeper into the ice.

  • Hyper-V is not ready for the enterprise, large scale enterprise. This is not to say it cannot be made to work, but Hyper-V today is not a clear winner compared to Xen, vSphere, or even KVM.
  • KVM is still difficult to install and configure when one takes into account that its implementation is not as easy as KDE across multiple distributions; I found RHEL and Ubuntu to be easier than Gentoo for example, even though Gentoo is my favorite Linux distribution. This is not to say that any of them are very hard or just easy, only that the multiple distributions make KVM standardization a bit hard, and digging through all the Google hits a pain in the posterior.
  • SCVMM in my view has great potential but fails short of the mark. It is slow. It still has issues with complex Active Directory designs, and disjointed domains. It does not eliminate vCenter, only links to it. Notice I did not use the word, integrate, SCVMM does not integrate vSphere, because it just glues its-self to vSphere and makes vSphere management, with its limited scaling, look like SCVMM, yuck. I really do hate the SCVMM interface. Microsoft has bundle System Center in such a way as to target vSphere management suite, this is interesting, but very expensive no matter what Microsoft claims. Management of virtualization is where everyone thinks the money to be made is at. Idiots. Chasing dollars and not improving the total solution is just as bad as adding new features in a half-ass manner.
  • KVM management, this I must admit has been struggle for me. I am not used to using a GUI in Linux, and the fact that I really have to use a GUI to be effective in management of KVM, is fine, just a bit of culture shock for me. Odd, I accept a GUI in MacOS with no worries, I work with Microsoft Windows, which I still feel is a rip-off of the original Machintosh OS, but balk at a GUI in Linux? Never liked Gnome, that may be coloring my perception.
  • KVM is still immature with its support of Windows, I am attempting to run Windows 2008 R2 Beta, and having no end of issues, I suspect many of my issues are learning curve issues with KVM management tools, virt-manager, and the GUI issue as noted above. I really need to setup a Ubuntu desktop, or server with KDE, and that is the plan. Even when I reverted back to Windows 2008 proper, the issues remained, so it is a KVM issue from my perspective at the moment. It is interesting that every example of Windows running in KVM is desktop class software, Windows XP to the greatest extent, and a odd instance of Vista here and there. What does this tell you?
  • Hyper-V no matter what Microsoft says is still not on par with vSphere when it comes to a clustered file system. No this is not an argument about NFS versus VMFS, even with the SCSI reservation scaling issues and such on VMFS, VMFS kicks everything else to the curb right now. Sure NFS is gaining, and may at some point own the shared IO storage space, but not right now. Clustered Shared Volumes (CSV) feature in R2 is going to be a disappointment to many. It is nothing more than NTFS with a few filter/wrapper drivers, so it is not going to win any awards.
  • Some time ago, I told Microsoft to walk away from NTFS shared, and just adopt NAS, NFS and iSCSI and call it done, but Microsoft has problems listening to the customer at times. Microsoft needs to get to NAS with Hyper-V quick. Much quicker than VMware did. NFS and iSCSI, thought I am not endorsing either here, significant threats to classic fiber-channel, never mind FCoE, which is a solution looking for problem until it is finalized and officially adopted by at least a few big vendors. NetApp is yelling from the mountain top various points of how NFS scales beyond VMFS, duhe. But until everyone has 10GB dedicated storage networks, FC will always have its place, but it is threatened, no doubt.
  • Hyper-V with its very immature network model, that is not even close to vSphere or Xen, is another weak point, that is going to plague Microsoft for months if not years. Microsoft needs to implement a MPIO like model for Hyper-V virtual networking. Why Microsoft did not do this in Microsoft Virtual Server, is a mystery as well, this was an obvious and clear winner for Microsoft.
  • Why am I referencing the above Hyper-V issues, because KVM addresses these out of the box, in fact, the further down the rabbit hole I get, the more I see KVM not as threat to vSphere but to Hyper-V. Interesting no?
  • KVM has one other significant win, it is lean and mean, it is a virtualization container model, similar in strategic approach to Solaris Zones or LDOMs, and as you all know, from my past discourse on the topic of virtualization containers, I see this as the first step to operating system instance reduction. We need to reduce the total copies of the operating system running in parallel in virtualization, now is the time, everyone!

I am slowly coming to the realization that vSphere may be irrelevant, based on cost, and Hyper-V and KVM will drive right at each other, Xen is always road kill, not because it is wrong or weak, but because it has not momentum behind it. KVM has something that VMware has lost, and Hyper-V is trying to gain…Energy! No, Passion. When you read about what developers are doing in KVM, and how they discuss issues, there is emotional if not a spiritual aspect to their oration. Excitement and motivation in their words, and this is critical to the future success of KVM. I perceive the significance of this having once been a down and dirty developer in my college days. It is not the high caffeine loading, or the potential profits, that drive developers, it is the bragging rights around the water cooler, cough, the instance messaging groups or dig-it or even tweeter, about the latest kewl trick that is rad if not sick, that was added to KVM, which has everyone jumping online to download KVM. The Linux architecture fans are just itching to nail Microsoft, and as a freebie kick VMware at the same time. I will continue with my deep dive of KVM and comparison to Hyper-V, and I expect my perceptions to change or surprise maybe re-affirmed? But I am distracted.

Changing Gears for a Moment…

About 40 or so people, some very close friends that are now unemployed, all in the IT industry, that I have worked with for years if not decades and knew will, in a work association context, have been let go, laid off, etc. This weights upon my thoughts often now days. The aspect of this current economic situation that saddens me is this, the pain I see in others, in the looks on faces, the words left unsaid, living through the economic instability cut lose in the wind if you will, through absolutely no fault of their own. It is difficult for me to endure. Life is not fair, to be sure, not even life in the IT industry. Nor do I blame those that make these ugly decisions; it is a thankless situation for all. Decisions have to be made.

But still, some of these people, friends or otherwise, I know for a fact, where ranked very high in their respective organizations, provided excellent service to their respective employers for decades, where often recognized and rewarded, and still the axe came with merciless speed and disregard of achievement, skill or even talent. It begs the question…what criteria is used for deciding who is left standing, and who falls to the axe? Moreover, I ask…how many times does the axe fall, before any given firm loses competitive advantage? How many times does axe fall, before any given firm loses talent and thus knowledge that is gone forever?

What is the true definition of profitability and strength of a firm? What drives strategic success? Tactical results of course. It is skilled and talented people, in-house, that do real work. Retaining those that make your respective firm profitable is strategic and tactical, the people that work where the rubber meets the road, not management, not directors of the board, of course not the investors, and dear God, not even CEOs. How many talented people can a firm retain, if it let the top 10%, no, top 5% of its management structure go?

Furthermore, is it not ironic, that we call it in-house resources and out-sourced resources? Of course, the most straight forward descriptor to the opposite term for in-house, the true antigram to the term in-housed resources, is well, honestly, is out-housed resources? But I guess out-housing does not have that positive executive level ring or spin to it, now does it? But it does have a certain a semantic parallel, right?

5 comments March 19th, 2009


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