Open Source Virtualization Saves Money

Virtualization is a powerful technology that enables numerous benefits detailed here, particularly saving money. The savings come mainly through the IT resource consolidation. When you add open source to the virtualization equation, it creates another avenue to savings.

 Virtualization technology, in the form of the hypervisor, is not exactly cheap. VMware, the industry’s 900lbs. hypervisor gorilla commands significant license fees. With its latest pricing plan introduced last year, the standard license starts at about $1000. Enterprise costs are based on processor sockets and memory and, given how it is calculated, VMware can require four times as many licenses as previously needed, which dramatically increases the cost.  Here’s VMware’s FAQ on pricing. Depending on the amount of memory licensing costs could run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Open source virtualization, noted Jean Staten Healy, IBM’s worldwide Cross-IBM Linux and Open Virtualization Director, presents opportunities to reduce virtualization costs in numerous ways.  For example, the inclusion of open source KVM in enterprise Linux distributions reduces need for additional hypervisors, enabling the organization to avoid buying more VMware licenses.  KVM also enables higher virtual machine density for more savings. IDC’s Al Gillen and Gary Chen put out a white paper detailing the recent KVM advances.

 The ability to manage mixed KVM- VMware virtualization through a single tool further increases the cost efficiency of open source virtualization. IBM’s System Director VMControl is one of the few tools providing such mixed hypervisor, cross-platform management.  For general hypervisor management, Linux and KVM standardized on libvirt and libguestfs as the base APIs for managing virtualization and images. These APIs work with other Linux hypervisors beyond KVM (higher-level tools, such as virsh and virt-manager, are built on top of libvirt).

The combination of KVM technical advances, the slow but steadily increasing adoption of KVM, and the inclusion of KVM as a core feature of the Linux operation system is driving more enterprises deploy KVM along with VMware. Of course, the fact that KVM now comes for free as part of the Linux core means you can try it at no cost and minimal risk.

Enterprise Linux users are now using KVM where they previously would have not bothered to virtualize a particular workload due to cost. This makes sense for several reasons; free being just one of them. Other reasons include the integration of the KVM toolset with the Linux toolset and the fact that Linux admins already know how to use it.

One large bank used Linux and KVM as a development and test resource in a private cloud. Normally, they would have needed to request more budget for VMware but since they had Linux with KVM they could just add Windows virtual machines. And by developing in Java, they could roll out prototypes fast.  In the process, the bank achieved high virtual machine density at minimal cost.

Another financial services firm set up virtual machines with KVM to monitor Linux usage for under-utilized hosts and then deployed virtual machine images to the host as warranted. The result: an ad-hoc grid of KVM virtual machines with high utilization, again at minimal cost.

KVM is a natural for private clouds. IBM reports private clouds being built using Moab with xCAT and KVM. The resulting private cloud handles both VMware and KVM equally well, making them plug-compatible.  With this approach, organizations can gradually expand their use of KVM and reduce, or at least delay, the need to buy more VMware licenses, again saving money.

KVM also is being exercised in a big way as the hypervisor behind IBM’s public Smart Cloud Enterprise, demonstrating how enterprise-capable this free, open source hypervisor is.

BottomlineIT expects VMware will remain the dominant x86 virtualization platform going forward. However, it makes sense to grab every opportunity to use KVM for enterprise-class, multi-platform virtualization and save money wherever you can.

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