Thursday, May 27, 2010

KVM in SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP 1

At Novell BrainShare Amsterdam last week, the Geekos were handing out SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP1 (RC4) at IT Central. So off came my DVD drive and I installed it on a separate partition on my Thinkpad.

Since its a Release Candidate (RC4) and not the final GA version due on 2nd June, I wanted to have a quick look at how KVM works since its an officially supported hypervisor in SP1 (other than the very established Xen shipped and supported since SLES 10 back in 2006).

I've been using Xen and helping partners & customers implement it for a few years, without any knowledge of KVM, I wanted to dive right in and see how far I'd go. I am very impressed with the engineering and thought put into how KVM is packaged with SLES 11 SP1. This is truly a fine example of an "Enterprise" grade product. I was able to virtualize an instance of SLES 11 SP1 and MS Windows 7 with no assistance. The KEY is the tools (libvirt & virt-manager) for Xen, which I'm familiar since SLES 10, is now capable of managing both Xen and KVM in SLES 11 SP1. Depending if you boot into the Xen kernel or the default kernel with KVM module loaded, these same tools can be used, thus providing a consistent user interface. This is just brilliant! senyum

For existing users of Xen, should they decide that KVM is a better alternative as it matures further down the road, they could easily switch without much hassle. More importantly, its conceivable that any custom scripts (automation, failover or whatever) developed for Xen can be easily applied to KVM. This is much better than RIP-n-REPLACE in so many other "Enterprise" grade products.

Here are a few screenshots:

Cheers! senyum

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Why is SUSE Studio so Addictive?

Simply put, its all about creativity and productivity. If you have never heard of SUSE Studio, please go and check it out at and while you wait for your account creation to complete, check out the screencast and read the many credible IT information sources that have reported/blogged about it (via Google).

However, you will never truly appreciate it until you log in and try to create your first software appliance. As a famous chain of Indian restaurants here in Singapore says: "The proof is in the eating..." senyum

This is my personal take on why I keep going back to SUSE Studio and leveraging its many features. A portion of time spent in my work goes into the creation and setting up of relevant product demos. This is both a repetitive and iterative process. Repetitive because I have to go and show this to multiple business partners and customers. Iterative because with each demonstration, with constructive feedback from my audience, I will enhance the demo (customization). Further, I have regional responsibilities across a few countries (across 5 timezones and many more languages).

Before SUSE Studio, we have tried a few strategies to varying degrees of success:
1. We could create a document that describes how to setup and showcase the demo, emailed it to all the local engineers to replicate.
2. Alternatively, if time is short, we create demos on hard disks and shipped them out.
3. We also tried creating demos in a virtual machine and either ship it or host it on an FTP site for download.

With method (1), there is a lot of duplication of work as each engineer in every country will spend time setting up the demo which consists of hardware, operating system, application and sample data. With method (2), it is slightly more productive because we create the demo once and clone it across 5-10 hard disks and ship them out. However, it is not cost-effective due to the need to purchase hard disk and courier charges... for the next iterative demo, we need the field engineers to ship the hard disk back for updates, and then shipping them off again...

With virtualization as described in method (3), we are able to create portable demos across a variety of hardware (laptop to servers). We overcome the time consuming & duplication of work in (1) and the resource & shipping costs in (2). The only challenge is the network download bandwidth available in different countries.

SUSE Studio is the next step in productivity in this direction, here are the key advantages:
a) We create/design the demo workload (software appliance) within a web browser! There are a decent amount of templates, online repositories with latest versions of software and Web 2.0 wizards that progressively advises you on software version compatibility and related hints.

b) We can simultaneously target different output formats (ie VMware, VirtualBox, Xen, Disk Image/USB key and live CD/DVD iso), all generated online on someone else's infrastructure. sengihnampakgigi

c) We can "testdrive" the generated demo online via a web browser and eliminate the need to download the images until we are happy with our creation.

d) We can share these demos (software appliance) to a wider audience*

I do not need the constant availability of powerful machines with virtualization capabilities and loads of hard disk space for creating many different demos with even more snapshots. As long as I got a web browser and Internet access, I can use SUSE Studio to create new demos or improve on existing ones. Once I reach a milestone in my demo, I version it and make the link to download the image available to our engineers.

For (d), while not officially available at this time, I am fortunate to be eligible to beta-test the "marketplace" feature where you can share your appliance to all members (beta testers) of SUSE Studio. I can browse or search for software appliances, try them out, clone their configuration as a base template for additional work/customizations, rate them (5 star system) etc.

All these little things add up in improving productivity and giving me more time to engage my brain for creativity in designing the next iteration or new demo.

That is why SUSE Studio is so Addictive for me. peace

PS: For ISVs who signed up with Novell for the SUSE Appliance Toolkit, you get to deploy an enhanced SUSE Studio onsite, thus having a software appliance workbench service in your private network, I mean, Cloud. encem