Posts Tagged KVM

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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OVA and oVIRT Drive KVM Success

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.

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The Challenge of Managing Multi-Platform Virtualization

While virtualization has been experiencing widespread adoption over the past decade it was considered an x86-VMware phenomenon. Sure there are other hypervisors, but for most organizations VMware was synonymous with virtualization. Even on the x86 platform, Microsoft Hyper-V was the also ran. Of course, virtualization has been baked into the mainframe for decades, but most organizations only began to take notice with the rise of VMware.

Virtualization provides the foundation for cloud computing, and as cloud computing gains traction across all segments of the computing landscape virtualization increasingly is understood as a multi-platform and multi-hypervisor game. Today’s enterprise is likely to be widely heterogeneous. It will run virtualized systems on x86 platforms, Windows, Linux, Power, and System z. By the end of the year, expect to see both Windows and Linux applications running virtualized on x86, Power Systems, and the zEnterprise mainframe.

Welcome to the virtualized multi-platform, multi-hypervisor enterprise. While it brings benefits—choice, flexibility, cost savings—it also comes with challenges. The biggest of which is management complexity. Growing virtualized environments have to be tightly managed or they can easily spin out of control with phantom and rogue VMs popping up everywhere and gobbling system resources. The typical platform- and hypervisor-specific tools simply won’t do the trick. This will require tools to manage virtualization across the full range of platforms and hypervisors.

Not surprisingly, IBM, which probably has the most virtualized platforms and hypervisors of any vendor, also is the first with cross-platform, cross-hypervisor management in Systems Director’s newest version of VMControl, version 2.4, part of IBM’s System Director family of management tools. This is truly multi everything management. From a single console you control VMs running on x86 Windows, x86 Linux, and Linux on Power. One administrator can start, stop, move, and otherwise manage virtual machines, even across platforms. And it is agnostic as far as the hypervisor goes; it can handle VMware, Hyper V, and KVM.  It also integrates with Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager and VMware vCenter. (I’ve been told by IBM that it also will be able to manage VMs running on the zEnterprise platform soon after a few issues are resolved regarding the mainframe’s already robust virtualization management.)

The multi-platform VMControl 2.4 dovetails nicely with another emerging virtualization trend—open virtualization. In just a few months the Open Virtualization Alliance has grown from the initial four founders (IBM, Red Hat, Intel, and HP) to over 200 members. The open source KVM hypervisor being championed by the alliance handles both Linux and Windows workloads, allowing organizations to dodge yet another element of vendor lock-in. One organization already used that flexibility to avoid higher charges by running the open source hypervisor for a test and dev situation. That kind of open virtualization requires just the kind of multi-platform virtualization management VMControl 2.4 delivers.

Multi-platform is where enterprise virtualization has to go. Eventually BottomlineIT expects the other hypervisors to get there, but it may take a while.

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Open Source KVM Takes on the Hypervisor Leaders

The hypervisor—software that allocates and manages virtualized system resources—usually is the first thing that comes to mind when virtualization comes up. And when IT considers server virtualization the first option typically is VMware ESX, followed by Microsoft’s Hyper-V.

But that shouldn’t be the whole story. Even in the Windows/Intel world there are other hypervisors, such as Citrix Xen.  And IBM has had hypervisor technology for its mainframes for decades and for its Power systems since the late 1990s. A mainframe (System z) running IBM’s System z hypervisor, z/VM, can handle over 1000 virtual machines while delivering top performance and reliability.

So, it was significant when IBM announced in early May that it and Red Hat, an open source technology leader, are working together to make products built around the Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) open source hypervisor for the enterprise. Jean Staten Healy, IBM’s Director of Worldwide Cross-IBM Linux, told IT industry analysts that the two companies together are committed to driving adoption of the open source virtualization technology through joint development projects and enablement of the KVM ecosystem.

Differentiating this approach from those taken by the current x86 virtualization leaders VMware and Microsoft is open source technology. An open source approach to virtualization, Healy noted, lowers costs, enables greater interoperability, and increases options through multiple sources.

The KVM open source hypervisor allows a business to create multiple virtual versions of Linux and Windows environments on the same server. Larger enterprises can take KVM-based products and combine them with comprehensive management capabilities to create highly scalable and reliable, fully cloud-capable systems that enable the consolidation and sharing of massive numbers of virtualized applications and servers.

Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, for example, was designed for large scale datacenter virtualization by pairing its centralized virtualization management system and advanced features with the KVM hypervisor. BottomlineIT looked at the Red Hat open source approach a few weeks ago, here.

The open source approach to virtualization also is starting to gain traction. To that end Red Hat, IBM, BMC, HP, Intel, and others joined to form the Open Virtualization Alliance. Its goal is to facilitate  the adoption of open virtualization technologies, especially KVM. It intends do this by promoting examples of customer successes, encourage interoperability, and accelerate the expansion of the ecosystem of third party solutions around KVM. A growing and robust ecosystem around KVM is essential if the open source hypervisor is to effectively rival VMware and Microsoft.

Healy introduced what might be considered the Alliance’s first KVM enterprise-scale success story, IBM’s own Research Compute Cloud (RC2), which is the first large-scale cloud deployed within IBM. In addition to being a proving ground for KVM, RC2 also handles actual IBM internal chargeback based on charges-per-VM hour across IBM. That’s real business work.

RC2 runs over 200 iDataplex nodes, an IBM x86 product, using KVM (90% memory utilization/node). It runs 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.

KVM was chosen not only to demonstrate the open source hypervisor but because it was particularly well suited to the enterprise challenge. It provides a predictable and familiar environment that required no additional skills, auditable security compliance, and the open source licensing model that kept costs down and would prove cost-effective for large-scale cloud use, which won’t be long in coming. The RC2 team, it seems, already is preparing live migration plans for support of federated clouds. Stay tuned.

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