Red Hat-IBM pact, OVA launch will drive more KVM use in enterprise

Red Hat-IBM partnership, launch of Open Virtual Alliance designed to advance adoption of KVM in the enterprise
Written by Paula Rooney, Contributor

Like its parent operating system, Linux, and its open source rival, Xen, the kernel-based virtual machine (KVM) hypervisor is said to be ready for prime time enterprise use.

That’s the message that Red Hat tried to broadcast at its recent annual summit in Boston. The Linux leader – the biggest corporate backer of KVM – announced at its recent summit a major partnership with IBM designed to advance KVM in the enterprise.

IBMhas 60 engineers working on KVM with Red Hat and offers Level I, Level II and level III technical support for KVM.

To date, the joint team has delivered for KVM 45 percent better consolidation capacity than its competitors. Going forward, the two companies plan to develop new interfaces for Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Manager and IBM Tivoli and IBM Director that address cloud, datacenter automation, virtual storage and networking, virtualization security and appliance management.

KVM got another big push recently with the announcement of the Open Virtual Alliance, a consortium of vendors including Eucalyptus, Red Hat, SUSE, IBM, HP, Intel and BMC, which is committed to accelerating the adoption of open virtualization technologies such as KVM.

The official press release said the consortium is promoting the adoption of open virtualization but it only refers to KVM specifically. It's interesting to note that SUSE is a member while Citrix -- the key sponsor of Xen -- is not.

KVM is built into versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4 and beyond.  Additionally, Red Hat markets a standalone KVM-based Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Manager, whose APIs IBM intends to promote for enterprise use.

KVM has a ways to go to catch up with VMware or Xen commercially.

Red Hat, like Novell, initially backed the other leading open source hypervisor, Xen, but made a strategic bet on KVM with its acquisition of Qumranet in 2008. One compelling advantage of KVM is that it is built into the Linux kernel.

But some questioned the move. Xen, after all, pioneered the open source virtualization market and gained support from all the leasing open source applications and platforms vendors. Xen, for instance, was speedily integrated into Novell’s SUSE Linux OS and Red Hat Enterprise Linux as Microsoft developed its own hypervisor for Windows called Hyper-V.

Once Citrix bought Xensource and became the chief sponsor of Xen, many open source purists turned their attentions to KVM. It has taken some time to evolve its capabilities, but Red Hat points out that KVM-based products such s its Enterprise Virtualization platform inherits the scalability of Linux and is coupled with the SELinux security infrastructure.

Red Hat will continue to support Xen but technical support and development will end.  All of the development efforts are focused on KVM.

Red Hat and IBM trotted out the names of a couple of joint customers using KVM – the Brazilian Federal Highway Police and Cortal Consors.

Still, Red Hat has a ways to go to catch up to the behemoths in the virtulization industry.

At a virtualization panel held by Red Hat at the summit, not one of the five corporate customers were actively using KVM as a core virtualization hypervisor. There was some experimentation, but most said it may take some time to evolve in the enterprise.

The forthcoming Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Manager 3.0 not only offers advancements in KVM management but loses an awkward requirement of a Windows server to run. That seems to be a major impediment to deployment.

It will be interesting to see the impact of that product's release on KVM adoption.

At a real world panel at Red Hat Summit,  Linux enterprise customers were asked if they have deployed KVM in production.  "We haven't done anything yet. We're on Xen and awaiting Red Hat to bring me a version of RHEV ... there is  Windows piece that has stuck around and once it goes full Linux, we'll start looking at KVM," said Travis Tiedemann, systems engineer at Union Pacific.

Another customer on the panel concurred.

"We have none in production but we're waiting for the next version where the Windows component is moved out," said Sean Millichamp, Linux Architecture Team lead at Secure-24.

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