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Antsle antMAN edgeLinux - your next hypervisor?

In the ever-adaptable landscape of virtualization technology, we've witnessed the arrival of the antMan hypervisor. This nifty piece of software offers a novel take on managing and steering virtual environments. Let’s dig into the nitty-gritty of antMan, contrasting it with the heavyweight contenders like VMware, Proxmox, Nutanix, and KVM.


The antMan hypervisor is the new kid on the block in the realm of virtualization, with a design that cuts through the clutter. It’s engineered for swift deployment, management, and expansion of virtual machines (VMs) and containers. AntMan distinguishes itself with its commitment to simplicity, speed, and seamless integration with the modern DevOps toolbox.


Its mission? To serve up a svelte yet potent solution for those keen on migrating legacy systems or harnessing cloud-native applications in virtualized settings.

My current setup includes the antMAN OS, a CentOS 7-based software, humming along on an AntsleOne server – a match seemingly made in tech heaven. While I haven't put the hardware through its paces on other platforms, it's snappy in its native habitat.


Sure, you could cobble together your own hardware, potentially saving some cash, but AntsleOne offers a blissfully quiet option for home labs, sparing you the drone of incessant fan noise.


Setting up antMan is a breeze. A standard installation affair: grab the ISO, etch it onto a USB, boot up, and let the prompts guide you home. Instructions are a click away at the Antsle documentation site.


Now, onto AntMan control software from Ansle, a gem for browser aficionados and a friend to the user-friendly crowd. It comes with an API that dives deep into hypervisor management. Within moments, you’ll feel like a maestro conducting an orchestra of networks and virtual machines, or "antlets," from the AntMan dashboard.


On the financial front, AntMan plays both sides of the field with a gratis community edition and tiered subscriptions ranging from $29 to a hefty $599 monthly. I took the homelab license for a spin and was met with rapid-fire, effective support responses.


There were some concerns about security patching and updates that I found on the antsle forum posted in August of 2019, but I had not gotten a chance to dig deep into whether there have been any updates (see https://antsle.com/forum/topic/home-lab-concerns/).


The community edition lets you dip your toes in with only three antlets – think of it as the amuse-bouche of virtualization. But if you've splurged on Antsle hardware, the Homelab license is part of the package, excluding the Antsle Nano for reasons that escape me.


From Essential to Scale, each tier adds its own flavor of features and support, scaling up to meet the demands of growing enterprises.


antMAN licensing packages and pricing can be found here: https://antsle.com/pricing/#0


Accessing your hypervisor? Just a hop to http://IP.ADDRESS:3000. There are some simple options to add SSL if you have a licensed version of the OS.





Spinning up VMs or LXCs is a walk in the park, thanks to the antlet menu's smorgasbord of templates – rapid deployment at your fingertips. Or flex your DIY muscles with a blank KVM and your choice OS ISO. VMware OVA files need not apply – unless you’re up for a bit of format juggling.








Management is straightforward, with direct console access via the antMan WebGUI or SSH/VNC setups. Templates come pre-configured with basic management needs, so you can focus on the fun stuff.





Here's the hiccup – antlets are cloistered away in their own virtual network. It's a NAT network jamboree unless you've got the keys to the SDN feature in the paid versions. Otherwise, it's port-mapping party time.


A virtual network is created inside your server, and your virtual machines live inside that virtual network.


For example, my LAN is 192.168.99.0/24. My server that is running antMAN edgeLinux has an IP address of 192.168.99.5. My address on my server is 10.1.1.0/24. My Kali Linux server has an address of 10.1.1.


If you use VMWare, this is similar to how the NAT networking is set up. However, if you are used to setting up your VMs on bridged networks, it is more complex to share the same network as the primary LAN. You can do this easily if you have a licensed version of antMAN edgeLinux and use the SDN feature. If you do not, your primary option is to map a port from your VM. So, for example, if I want to open up SSH on Kali Linux, which has an IP of 10.1.1.10, I will map TCP port 10.1.1.10 to my antMAN edgeLinux server.

 

In my screenshot below, I have port 22 open on two antelts (port 22). I had to map them to different ports on my antMAN edgeLinux server. I had to do this because I already use port 22 on my server. If I wanted to SSH into my Metasploitable3 machine, I would SSH to 192.168.99.5 port 216. If I tried to SSH into my Jupyter server, I would connect to 192.168.99.5 port 2017.




 

Notice, in each one of those cases I am still accessing the my server at 192.168.99.5 which is essentially proxying the connection for me to my antlets on the 10.1.1.0/24 network


My verdict? AntMan EdgeLinux is a playground for lab enthusiasts. Yet, as of February 20th, 2024, it's playing hard to get in terms of its niche in the hypervisor market.


The community edition is a tad too snug for serious play since it is limited to only three antlets, but the Homelab license has legs I wish it had the SDN feature to allow for bridge networking to my VMs.


The search for alternatives is on with the tech community on tenterhooks about Broadcom’s moves with educational and home cost-effective licenses. Proxmox, KVM, XenServer, and even the student-friendly Hyper-V are all vying for attention.


I’m leaning towards sticking with my antMan Homelab and might even splash out on an upgrade to the essentials license – chalk it up to a business expense. Perhaps that’s antMan’s destiny – to be the go-to for companies wanting a secluded sandbox for their engineers and researchers, a local alternative to the public and private clouds for testing and development.

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