Red Hat buys virtualization player Qumranet

With the US$107 million purchase, Red Hat gains hypervisor and desktop virtualization tools to challenge VMware and Microsoft.
Written by Peter Judge, Contributor

Red Hat has bought its way further into the virtualization market, to compete against VMware Citrix and Microsoft, with a US$107 million purchase of Qumranet.

Through the deal, announced on Thursday, Red Hat picks up Qumranet's server and desktop virtualization portfolio and takes on its team of developers and support staff. The Israel-based company maintains KVM (kernel-based virtual machine), one of the leading open source hypervisors.

It also sells a virtualization desktop infrastructure (VDI) product, SolidICE, which runs the user's desktop on a remote server, and which competes with Citrix's XenDesktop and VMware's VDI. Qumranet uses its own proprietary thin-client protocol called Simple Protocol for Independent Computing Environments (Spice), which lets remote desktops run at high speed.

The purchase should bring Red Hat serious expertise to back a virtualization strategy that has been forming over the past two years. It allows the company to integrate virtualization more closely with its Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system, bringing it into closer competition with the leading virtualization specialist VMware, and with Microsoft, whose Hyper-V plugs virtualization into Windows Server.

"Red Hat will be one of only two companies in the world with a comprehensive virtualization portfolio," said Paul Cormier, vice president of tools and technologies at Red Hat, at a press conference on Thursday.

Only Microsoft and Red Hat have an operating system, hypervisor, and all the management and other components of virtualization software, Cormier said. Microsoft has planned a virtualization event for Monday, which is expected to include new product announcements.

Red Hat's Enterprise Linux 5 operating system already includes integrated virtualization, based on the widely used, free Xen hypervisor. The lead developer of Xen, XenSource, was bought by Citrix in 2007. In June, Red Hat announced that it is building an embedded Linux hypervisor based on KVM. This is expected to allow all major operating systems to run on Red Hat servers.

Red Hat is apparently not shifting wholesale from Xen to KVM. "Red Hat will support Xen until at least 2014 (seven years after the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5)," the company said in a statement. "We are committed to insulating our customers from changes in the infrastructure components and this is why we created an open virtualization management standard (the Libvirt API). This...allows customers and ISVs to build virtualization management applications, processes and configurations based on a stable API, independent of the underlying virtualization technology."

KVM differs from other hypervisors because instead of running a thin layer of virtualization software between the hardware and the operating system, it builds virtualization components into the Linux kernel itself. This promises better efficiency, and KVM is reported to be one of the fastest hypervisors that uses virtualization features in 64-bit processors.

"With the acquisition of Qumranet, Red Hat now has a team of people who know KVM like the backs of their collective hands," said analyst Daniel Kusnetzky, of Kusnetzky group, in a blog on ZDNet Asia's sister site ZDNet.com. "I hope that the folks at Red Hat allow Qumranet to continue to innovate. I suspect they will."

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