ConVirt: the New Tool in Your Virtual Toolbox
Virtualization is now a staple of the modern enterprise. As more and more shops switch to the virtual paradigm, managing those new virtual resources is a critical part of any deployment. For admins using Microsoft- or VMware-based hypervisors, powerful management tools are available to keep their virtual houses in order. Unfortunately, those products and their accompanying tools come with a hefty price tag. The good news is that inexpensive open-source virtualization is on the rise, driven in large part due to its low performance overhead. However, one of the primary obstacles to large-scale open-source virtualization adoption has been the lack of robust management tools. virt-manager is the most well known and used, and although it's a great tool, it does not hold a candle to the enterprise tools put out by the big vendors. That's where ConVirt comes in.
ConVirt is an open-source tool capable of managing multiple types of hypervisors including Xen, KVM and now VMware from a single pane of glass. When evaluating ConVirt for your needs, it is best to think of it as a front end to the native tools of the hypervisors that provides extended features not available in a standalone hypervisor. Although there is some overlap with virt-manager, ConVirt adds an additional level of enterprise manageability. ConVirt is currently offered in three tiers: Open Source, Enterprise and Enterprise Cloud. This article focuses on the open-source version. The open-source version does not include the ability to manage VMware items, so the testing environment for this article contains only Xen and KVM servers. Even though I don't cover it here, the ability to manage VMware hosts along with KVM and Xen hosts from the same pane of glass should peak the interests of many admins.
Let's get started by installing the ConVirt Management Server or CMS. ConVirt can be installed on most flavors of Linux or as a pre-configured virtual appliance that can be imported into a KVM or Xen server. I chose to deploy my CMS on a physical server running CentOS 6.2 to allow plenty of storage space (the virtual appliance is roughly 2–3GB in size), although the appliance probably will get you up and running faster. Make sure that whichever installation method you select, that you open all the necessary ports on your CMS and on your managed servers/hosts that you want to manage through the console (TCP 8081, 8006, VNC ports and SSH).
The term "managed server" refers to those hosts running a hypervisor that is managed by ConVirt and can be used interchangeably with the term "host". Follow the installation procedures available on the Convirture Wiki site to perform the installation of the CMS. Most of the install is handled by a script that pulls down the dependencies and installs MySQL. I won't go into finer detail on the server install, as it is well documented on the site and I would just be repeating the information here.
After the CMS install is complete, access your management page at http://youripaddress:8081 (Figure 1). Use the default login of "admin/admin" to bring up the main console. For those used to VMware's vSphere, this interface will feel familiar. The layout is broken into three main panels: a navigation panel on the left, a display panel for selected items in the middle of the page and a panel at the bottom for displaying task results (Figure 2).
Figure 1. The Main Login Screen
Figure 2. First View of the Data Center