A grade for Ubuntu 8.04's virtualization

I bought a new quad core computer for the express purpose of running virtualization on Ubuntu 8.04. You see, one of the key features touted for Hardy Heron was officially supported KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machines). After a couple of weeks of twiddling with KVM on Ubuntu 8.04, I think I have enough basis to give it an honest evaluation.

My grade for Ubuntu 8.04 virtualization? C+.

Why the less than stellar results? Because KVM virtualization on Ubuntu 8.04 lacks the polish and ease-of-use that I expected of it, but which ultimately fell short.

First, a quick look at what Ubuntu 8.04 did right:

  • the requisite virtualization packages are already on the repository so installing them is an apt-get away
  • the graphical virtualization manager greatly simplifies the tasks in creating and maintaining virtual machines
  • KVM supports x86_64 architecture for its guest operating systems
  • ability to run several guest operating systems simultaneously

In a word: virtualization in Ubuntu 8.04 works. The problem is that it doesn't work well enough. Here are the areas where it came up short:

  • setting up bridged networking requires user intervention -- it's sloppy work that I still have to go into the networking configuration files and set up the bridge interface when it could all have been done as part of the installation process
  • setting up the bridged network messes up routing on the host operating system -- in the process, an extra default gateway got added into the routing table, cutting me off from the Internet until I deleted it
  • more networking woes after setting up the bridged network: network connectivity flashes on and off even after fixing the routing table
  • I have not been able to install any other guest operating system except Ubuntu 8.04 Desktop and Server (both i386 and AMD64 versions) -- I've tried FreeDOS, Damn Small Linux, and CEntOS, and they all fail a few seconds into the beginning of the installation
  • virt-install, the command-line installation utility, fails when I'm attempting to install using an ISO file

There were far too many problems associated with KVM to want to pursue it any further. I'm sure I could have gone into the forums and the additional documentation to get everything working, but that isn't the point. This is Ubuntu, and things are supposed to work with minimal hiccup.

If the KVM and Ubuntu teams can address these difficulties (and a few others), it could be a formidable addition. As it is, it still needs more work.

I haven't given up on virtualization yet, though. In fact, I'm typing this entry on a guest OS. But it's not KVM I'm using; it's VirtualBox.