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Someone out there “gets” the title, right?  No, I’m not suggesting that Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Beta is an interactive puzzle adventure game. The relationship, I suppose, is in fact based on a much looser association: this is our seventh major release and this post (as opposed to my first) is dedicated to Red Hat Enterprise Linux running as a guest on third party hypervisors.

As a brief aside, did you know that, according to Wikipedia, Bill Gates called The 7th Guest “...the new standard in interactive entertainment”?  I can only hope that our work on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Beta receives such high accolades.

Returning to the topic at hand, aside from our own Red Hat branded hypervisors based on KVM technology, we support VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V.  The first thing you will notice is that the list of third party hypervisors is perhaps surprisingly short. Why is this? This is because each certified and supported hypervisor is backed by an established engineering and support relationship, extensive testing, and a two-way certification agreement.  In other words, it speaks to a long term support commitment and quality to our joint customers.

Before I start talking about the new features in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Beta, I’d like to speak to the rich foundation (already in place) that we were able to inherit from and to build upon. Our goal has always been to provide the best user experience when customers choose to utilize Red Hat Enterprise Linux as a guest OS in their virtualized data center environments.  There were two key aspects to improving user experience and usability on VMware vSphere or Microsoft Hyper-V:

  • Integrating hypervisor para-virtualized drivers into Red Hat Enterprise Linux
  • Updating the Red Hat Enterprise Linux installer to recognize the hypervisor and install the required para-virtualized drivers

So what’s new in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 beta, you ask? Fear not (remember: this is not the aforementioned interactive puzzle adventure game), there are a few more optimizations left to conquer!

VMware vSphere

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Beta has integrated new para-virtualized drivers, to enhance usability in the areas of network communication, 3D graphics and VMware blessed open source tooling.   These enhancements take the user experience to the next level, as we now integrate additional specialized drivers and Open-VM-Tools bundled into Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Beta. Here are the VMware vSphere related new features, drivers and tools to further enhance the user experience when running Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Beta as a guest on VMware vSphere:

  • Virtual Machine Communication Interface (VMCI) and VMCI Sockets (VSOCK)
  • VMWGFX kernel driver for 3D graphics
  • VMware Open-VM-Tools

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Beta has added the vmw_vsock and vmw_vmci kernel drivers, that provide for fast and efficient communications between guest virtual machines and hypervisors.  This facilitates communication using VSOCK transport in situations with zero configuration options, provides network-less access, and allows guests to communicate with device proxies.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Beta has added the VMware 3D graphics driver vmwgfx, to enable Kernel Mode Switching and support for hardware-accelerated OpenGL and X11 rendering (Xv and XRender) on VMware hypervisors. OpenGL is the industry-standard cross-platform library for interactive 3D graphics.  The VMware 3D graphics driver has dependencies on the Docker driver on Xorg and Mesa library that are available in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Beta.

The pièce de résistance in the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Beta for the joint Red Hat and VMware customers, is bundling a fully supported Open-VM-Tools into the operating system.  Open-VM-Tools is a suite of open source virtualization utilities that improves the functionality, administration, and management of virtual machines on VMware hypervisors.
The benefits of including the Open-VM-Tools in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Beta are many:

  • Users get a better out-of-box experience to efficiently deploy virtual machines on VMware virtual infrastructure.
  • Eliminates the need to separately install VMware Tools.
  • Reduces operational expenses and virtual machine downtime because updates to Open-VM-Tools packages are provided with the operating system maintenance updates and patches. This eliminates separate maintenance cycles for VMware Tools updates.
  • Provides a compact foot-print optimized for each OS release, and provides a smaller installation size due to more efficient use of system libraries.

Microsoft Hyper-V

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Beta has added Hyper-V generation 2 virtual machine (VM) support and Hyper-V synthetic keyboard driver.  These enhancements allow Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Beta to run on Hyper-V generation 2 VM with a UEFI firmware stack.  What is Hyper-V generation 2 VM, you ask?

A virtual machine generation in Microsoft terms, determines the virtual hardware and functionality that is presented to the virtual machine.  Starting with Windows 2012 R2, Microsoft has added Hyper-V generation 2 VMs.  Generation 2 VMs have a simplified virtual hardware model, and it supports Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) firmware instead of BIOS-based firmware. Additionally, the majority of legacy devices are removed from generation 2 virtual machines.  The relevance to an operating system such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux is that Hyper-V hypervisor innovation is on generation 2 VMs.

It is my belief that these updates take the user experience and usability guest Red Hat installations to the next level. What do you think of the aforementioned integration efforts to enhance usability on the VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V platforms? Are these enhancements relevant to your own day-to-day operations?  I look forward to reading your feedback, comments and questions.


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