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libvirt

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Qemu vs libvirt: What are the differences?

Key Differences between QEMU and libvirt

Introduction

QEMU and libvirt are both open-source software tools used in virtualization. While they are related and often used together, they serve different purposes and have distinct features.

  1. Execution Environment: QEMU is primarily an emulator that provides full system emulation, allowing hardware virtualization and the ability to run various guest operating systems on different host platforms. On the other hand, libvirt is a library that provides a unified, high-level, and declarative API for managing virtualization technologies, including QEMU, KVM, Xen, and more.

  2. Hardware Emulation: QEMU includes its own built-in CPU emulation, which allows it to run guest operating systems, even if they have different architectures than the host platform. In contrast, libvirt relies on the underlying capabilities of the hypervisor and does not provide direct hardware emulation.

  3. Management Capabilities: QEMU provides a command-line interface for managing virtual machines and their associated resources. It allows users to start, stop, pause, and monitor virtual machines directly through commands. On the other hand, libvirt provides a high-level API and management toolset that abstracts the underlying virtualization technologies. It enables users to manage virtual machines through a consistent interface across different hypervisors.

  4. Scalability: QEMU is well-suited for running a small number of virtual machines on a single host. It is often used for development and testing purposes. In contrast, libvirt provides a scalable management framework that can be used to manage multiple hosts and coordinate the deployment and migration of virtual machines across a cluster or network.

  5. Integration with Virtualization Technologies: QEMU is a low-level component that can be used as a standalone tool or integrated with other virtualization technologies. It provides low-level access to the hardware and allows customization and fine-grained control. In contrast, libvirt is designed to abstract the underlying virtualization technologies and provide a common management interface. It offers a higher-level of abstraction and simplifies the management of virtual machines.

  6. Community Support: QEMU has a large and active community of developers and users. It is widely used in the open-source community and has a rich ecosystem of tools, plugins, and extensions. Similarly, libvirt also has a strong community and is supported by leading virtualization vendors. It benefits from the collaborative efforts of various contributors and provides a well-documented and mature management framework.

In summary, QEMU is primarily an emulator that provides full system emulation and hardware virtualization capabilities, while libvirt is a management framework that abstracts the underlying virtualization technologies and provides a unified management interface across different hypervisors.

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Pros of libvirt
Pros of Qemu
  • 2
    Low overhead
  • 2
    Free
  • 2
    Built into most Linux distros
  • 2
    Fast
  • 2
    Native KVM and QEMU
  • 2
    Native hypervisor
  • 2
    Can fully manage via CLI or VirtManager
  • 2
    VirtIO direct hardware access
  • 1
    VirtIO direct hardware support
  • 1
    Performance
  • 1
    Easy to use
  • 1
    Free

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What is libvirt?

It is an open-source API, daemon and management tool for managing platform virtualization. It can be used to manage KVM, Xen, VMware ESXi, QEMU and other virtualization technologies.

What is Qemu?

When used as a machine emulator, it can run OSes and programs made for one machine (e.g. an ARM board) on a different machine (e.g. your own PC). By using dynamic translation, it achieves very good performance. When used as a virtualizer, it achieves near native performance by executing the guest code directly on the host CPU. it supports virtualization when executing under the Xen hypervisor or using the KVM kernel module in Linux. When using KVM, it can virtualize x86, server and embedded PowerPC, 64-bit POWER, S390, 32-bit and 64-bit ARM, and MIPS guests.

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What companies use libvirt?
What companies use Qemu?
See which teams inside your own company are using libvirt or Qemu.
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What tools integrate with libvirt?
What tools integrate with Qemu?

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What are some alternatives to libvirt and Qemu?
KVM
KVM (for Kernel-based Virtual Machine) is a full virtualization solution for Linux on x86 hardware containing virtualization extensions (Intel VT or AMD-V).
VirtualBox
VirtualBox is a powerful x86 and AMD64/Intel64 virtualization product for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers, it is also the only professional solution that is freely available as Open Source Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL) version 2.
OpenStack
OpenStack is a cloud operating system that controls large pools of compute, storage, and networking resources throughout a datacenter, all managed through a dashboard that gives administrators control while empowering their users to provision resources through a web interface.
Docker
The Docker Platform is the industry-leading container platform for continuous, high-velocity innovation, enabling organizations to seamlessly build and share any application — from legacy to what comes next — and securely run them anywhere
Vagrant
Vagrant provides the framework and configuration format to create and manage complete portable development environments. These development environments can live on your computer or in the cloud, and are portable between Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.
See all alternatives