Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Manager: Salvation or Achilles Heel

by Paul Rubens

OS Roundup: Red Hat last week released its eagerly awaited Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Manager for Servers and the corresponding hypervisor. Exciting? Perhaps, but Red Hat users need not apply.

Red Hat has certainly got a lot of chutzpah. Not content with being the leading purveyor of enterprise Linux, it's also set its sights on becoming king of the virtualization hill, taking on VMware's formidable product line and Microsoft's money and muscle, not to mention its enormous customer base.

Last week saw another couple of parts of the Red Hat virtualization grand plan fall into place with the release of the eagerly awaited Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) Manager for Servers and the RHEV Hypervisor.

Virtualization is all jolly well and good, but without a management platform from which to create, move and generally keep an eye on your virtual machines it's not really much use. That's why RHEV Manager for Servers has been so eagerly awaited.

Now it's well known that when you're outside you're never more than 20 feet from a spider. It's much less well known — but seemingly equally true — that when you are discussing RHEV you are never more than 20 seconds from a quote from Navin Thadani, Red Hat's charming and seemingly omni-present senior director, virtualization business. This column is no exception, and here's what he had to say about the new releases:

Thanks to Red Hat's dedication to open source, you can reap the benefits of virtualization at a fraction of the cost of leading competitors.

Thadani has a lot of other stuff to say about RHEV Manager for Servers, but there's one thing he somehow omitted to mention. It may be a jolly fine piece of management software, but does it run on an open source operating system like RHEL? Awkwardly for Thadani, the answer is: "Actually, no." Tucked away at the bottom of Red Hat's RHEV for Servers datasheet is this embarrassing little system requirement nugget:

Management server: x86 server running US English language version of Windows Server 2003 R2 with SP2, .Net 3.5 or later, Application Server role installed. Windows Server 2008 not supported.

Ringing the praises of open source while requiring customers to have (or buy) Windows Server 2003? Now that's chutzpah, Navin!

How did this state of affairs come to pass? Sean Michael Kerner at Internetnews.com has the answer.

As it turns out, this embarrassment wasn't a one off: It's been an embarrassing few weeks for Red Hat really. Late last month, a NULL pointer de-reference flaw in the Linux kernel was discovered. It could lead to a local denial of service or privilege escalation. According to Brad Spengler, the software developer who uncovered the bug, attacks can be prevented by implementing a feature known as mmap_min_addr. However, Red Hat's Enterprise Linux doesn't properly implement that protection, leaving Red Hat systems vulnerable, The Register reported.

Oops. Red Hat has since issued a patch to fix the problem.

None of this embarrassment has hurt Red Hat's share price, however — the stock currently stands at about $27.27, roughly double what it was this time last year. Now that some, if not all, of the company's virtualization software is finally available, and perhaps following the old adage to buy on rumor and sell on news, Goldman Sachs has downgraded its recommendation for Red Hat from a "buy" to a "hold."

This news was met on MarketWatch with a comment from someone going by the moniker HomeSickCowboy:

If Red Hat is a sell then G$ must be trying to Pimp(oh, excuse me, pump) M$uck

proving, if nothing else, that Apple (or, should that be Appl€?) isn't the only operating system company with fanbois . Red Hat's loyal following will no doubt hold the open source company in good stead. Who knows — perhaps it will ensure the New Year's Day parade of the Red Hat Society is also a roaring success.

Paul Rubens is a journalist based in Marlow on Thames, England. He has been programming, tinkering and generally sitting in front of computer screens since his first encounter with a DEC PDP-11 in 1979.

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This article was originally published on Tuesday Nov 10th 2009
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