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Apple's Virtualization Framework is gaining new features in the upcoming release of macOS Ventura that will make it easy to run ARM Linux virtual machines natively on the M1 processor or other Apple silicon chips. New features of the framework include EFI bootloader support and the ability to render the desktop GUI in a window.

Red Hat recently took a closer look at a beta release of Ventura to see how easy it would be to run virtualized versions of two key technologies—Red Hat Enterprise Linux 9 and the single node version of the Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform—on Apple silicon. Spoiler alert: it worked great! Read on for the details and two video demos.

Running RHEL 9 on Apple silicon

Developers who use MacBooks or other Apple hardware often find value in utilizing a separate Linux host in order to build, test, and/or run software that is ultimately intended to be deployed on Linux. Running Linux in a local virtual machine is a convenient option that has mostly been a seamless experience on Macs running Intel-based processors. However, users of the latest Apple silicon hardware had hurdles to overcome in order to run ARM-based Linux distributions within local VMs, which often meant that connecting to external Linux infrastructure was the easiest option. But with the virtualization improvements in Ventura, developers using Apple silicon can run a local Linux virtual machine natively on their workstations with a seamless GUI experience and no dependence on connectivity to separate infrastructure.

There can also be advantages to running production Linux-based workloads on Apple silicon. The improvements in Ventura enable Linux distributions with ARM builds, such as RHEL 9, to run on Apple silicon with near-native performance.

Red Hat was able to install RHEL 9 as a guest virtual machine on an M1 Mac running a beta version of Ventura. This video demonstrates the whole process step-by-step.

The Virtualization Framework is essentially a software library, so in order to take advantage of the new features, an application for managing the virtual machines was needed that had already integrated the new version of the framework. UTM is an easy-to-use open source application for running virtual machines on macOS, and it had already integrated the new Virtualization Framework into its development branch. A release candidate of UTM 4.0 was used for this demonstration.

Please check out the video above for a preview of what Ventura has to offer. The demo shows how to create a new virtual machine with UTM, walks through the normal RHEL installation wizard, and then explores the newly-created Linux environment.

The demo can be reproduced today using pre-releases of Ventura and UTM. macOS Ventura is expected to be released on October 24, and UTM version 4 is likely to follow soon, having released RC2 on October 10.

Running single node OpenShift on Apple silicon

Red Hat has also been able to build on the ability to install RHEL in VMs on Apple silicon to create a demonstration of single node OpenShift running on a Mac. The video below demonstrates the installation of ARM-based single node OpenShift as a virtual machine. The host machine has an M1 processor and a beta release of macOS Ventura.

While OpenShift Local is often the best choice for pure software development, many developers find it useful to run a single node OpenShift VM on their workstations for Kubernetes integration work. Single node OpenShift has also proven its value as an edge infrastructure platform.

Apple silicon requires RHEL 9 for ARM to run as a virtual machine. Because OpenShift (as of the current 4.11 release) is still based on top of RHEL 8, the first step was to create an experimental custom build of OpenShift that uses RHEL 9 as its base OS. Since that custom build is not reproducible outside Red Hat, the video above is the only way to see single node OpenShift running on an M1.

But it gives you a preview of what's to come: once OpenShift transitions to a RHEL 9 base operating system, it will be possible to run OpenShift as a virtual machine natively on Apple silicon. And that's big news for the many developers who use Macs as their development machines of choice.

Last updated: December 1, 2023