What Is a Linux Hypervisor and What Does It Do?

A hypervisor is used to create and manage virtual machines. But what is a Linux hypervisor? And is it different from other similar software?

Virtualization is a neat way of experimenting with different operating systems. Generally, software like VirtualBox or VMware is used to set up and use virtual machines. But what exactly is VirtualBox or VMware? Well, they are hypervisors.

Hypervisors are software that you can use to create and run virtual machines. So, what is a Linux hypervisor? What are its features, and how is it different from Windows hypervisors?

What Is a Linux Hypervisor?

A Linux hypervisor is a technology built into the Linux kernel that helps turn your Linux system into a type 1 (native) hypervisor that can host multiple instances of virtual machines.

Kernel-based Virtual Machine or KVM is a prominent open-source Linux hypervisor that’s a popular virtualization technology on Linux and is currently maintained by Red Hat.

KVM was first publicly announced in 2006 and has since been merged into the Linux kernel. If you’re running a Linux kernel version 2.6.20 or newer, you already have KVM installed in your system.

Features of a Linux Hypervisor

At the very core, a Linux hypervisor offers a few key features centered around scalability, performance, and security. Some basic features of a Linux hypervisor are:

  1. Highly secure: KVM implements Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux) and Secure Virtualization (sVirt) technologies for enhanced virtual machine security. SELinux enforces boundaries around virtual machines and enhances isolation. sVirt extends SELinux’s functionalities and helps in smoother VM hosting.
  2. Live migration: Live migration is a flagship feature of KVM, using which you can migrate a running virtual machine from one host to another as it’s powered on and connected to a network.
  3. Scalability and performance: As KVM is directly merged into the Linux kernel, it inherits Linux’s efficiency and performance, making it highly scalable and reliable when dealing with heavy workloads.
  4. Reduced latency: Real-time extensions in the Linux kernel enable VM-based applications to operate with lower latency and better prioritization. Additionally, the kernel breaks down lengthy computation-intensive operations into smaller components, which are then scheduled and handled appropriately.

How Is Linux Hypervisor Different From Windows Hyper-V?

Linux hypervisor, KVM, differs from Windows hypervisor, Hyper-V, in not a lot of ways. Both are highly reliable hypervisors that can scale to tackle massive workloads and are equally popular among enterprises and enthusiasts.

While there are a few internal differences between KVM and Hyper-V, the only major one is KVM is open-source, and Hyper-V is not. This shouldn’t come across as surprising as KVM is baked into the Linux kernel, the face of open-source software.

Choose the Best Hypervisor for Your Virtualization Needs

There are two types of hypervisors and multiple options for each type. There’s no such thing as the best hypervisor software or technology. The type of hypervisor and software best for you boils down to the nature of use, among a couple of other factors.

So, to get the best virtualization experience, you should first understand your requirements and then learn about the different virtualization options. Only then will you be able to make an educated choice.

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