In the x86 world VMware is the 900-pound hypervisor gorilla. Even Microsoft’s Hyper-V takes a back seat to the VMware hypervisor. KVM, however, is gaining traction as an open source alternative. Like an open source product, it brings advantages portability, customizability, and low cost.
In terms of overall platform virtualization, the Linux world may be lagging behind Windows in the rate of server virtualization or not, depending on which studies you have been reading. Regardless, with IBM and Red Hat getting behind the KVM hypervisor in a big way last year, the pace of Linux servers being virtualized should pick up.
The driving of KVM today is being turned over to the Open Virtualization Alliance (OVA), which has made significant gains in attracting participation since its launch last spring. Currently it boasts over 240 members, up from the couple of dozen when BottomlineIT looked at it months ago.
The OVA also has been bolstered by an open virtualization development organization, the oVirt Project here. Its founding partners include: Canonical, Cisco, IBM, Intel, NetApp, Red Hat and SUSE. The founders promise to deliver a truly open source and openly governed and integrated virtualization stack. The oVirt team aims to deliver both a cohesive stack and discretely reusable components for open virtualization management, which should become key building blocks for private and public cloud deployments.
The oVirt Project bills itself as an open virtualization project providing a feature-rich server virtualization management system with advanced capabilities for hosts and guests, including high availability, live migration, storage management, system scheduler, and more. The oVirt goal is to develop a broad ecosystem of tools to make up a complete integrated platform and to deliver them on a well defined release schedule. These are components designed and tested to work together, and oVirt should become a central venue for user and developer cooperation.
The idea around OVA and oVirt is that effective enterprise virtualization requires more than just a hypervisor, noted Jean Staten, IBM Director, Worldwide Cross‐IBM Linux and Open Virtualization, at a recent briefing. In addition to a feature-rich hypervisor like KVM, Healy cited the need for well-defined APIs at all layers of the stack, readily accessible (reasonably priced) systems and tools, a corresponding feature-rich, heterogeneous management platform, and a robust ecosystem to extend the open hypervisor and management platform, all of which oVirt is tackling.
Now KVM and the OVA just need success cases to demonstrate the technology. Initially, IBM provided the core case experience, its Research Compute Cloud (RC2). RC2 runs over 200 iDataplex nodes, an IBM x86 product using KVM. It handles 2000 concurrent instances, is used by thousands of IBM employees worldwide, and provides 100TB of block storage attached to KVM instances via a storage cloud. RC2 also handles actual IBM internal chargeback based on charges-per-VM hour across IBM.
Today IBM is using KVM with its System z blades in the zBX. It also supports KVM as a tier 1 virtualization technology with IBM System Director VMControl and Tivoli system management products. On System x, KVM delivered 18% better virtual machine consolidation in a SPECvirt_sc2010 benchmark test.
Recently KVM was adopted by DutchCloud, the leading ISP in Netherlands. DutchCloud is a cloud-based IaaS provider. Companies choose it for QoS, reliability, and low price.
DutchCloud opted for IBM SmartCloud Provisioning as it core delivery platform across multiple server and storage nodes and KVM as the hypervisor for virtual machines. KVM offers both minimal licensing costs and the ability to support mixed (KVM and VMware) deployments. IBM’s System Director VMControl provides heterogeneous virtual machine management. The combination of KVM and SmartCloud Provisioning enabled DutchCloud to provision hundreds of customer virtual machines in a few minutes and ensure isolation through effective multi-tenancy. And since it can communicate directly with the KVM hypervisor, it avoids the need to license additional management components.
KVM is primarily a distributed x86 Linux platform and cloud play. It may, however, make its way into IBM’s zEnterprise environments through the zBX as the hypervisor for the x86 (IBM eX5) blades residing there.