What's a good form of virtualization if one day you will want to move your on-premises virtual machine into an off premises cloud? The short answer is VMware. A slightly longer answer is XenServer or Hyper-V. But KVM is emerging as a legitimate answer as well. Many clouds are being run on Red Hat Enterprise Linux and they will be able to host Red Hat KVM workloads on their virtual servers.
On March 16, IBM demonstrated the feasibility of this. It announced its Development and Test Cloud will run Red Hat's Enterprise Virtualization. Red Hat's virtualization product line "is an optimal hypervisor technology for the infrastructure offerings o the IBM cloud," said IBM's Maria Azua, VP of cloud computing enablement.
Red Hat and IBM together "aim to break down barriers to virtualization and cloud adoption by providing a stable, robust environment" for enterprise apps, said Red Hat's Scott Crenshaw, general manager of the cloud business unit. One step in favor of cloud computing stability is avoiding the need to convert a virtual machine from the enterprise environment into something else once it's headed for the cloud. Most Amazon EC2 customers either have to make such a conversion or skip running their application in a virtual machine on premises and make it up strictly as an Amazon Machine Image, a proprietary file format. Amazon Web Services are finding plenty of customers willing to do that. But in the long run, technologies that show cloud awareness, ease of migration without conversion and ease of management are going to enjoy the widest adoption. It's still early, but KVM is showing some potential.
On March 15,the Symbian Foundation announced it was building a cloud on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, since it uses the operating system for its developer site, developer.symbian.org. It wanted an open source base, including KVM, for hosting develop with Symbian as it becomes open source code.
Earlier in March, a leading Swedish Internet company, Voddler, adopted Red hat Enterprise Virtualization as its standard environment. Voddler distributes movies online, and needs to frequently reallocate resources to match demand. It has the ability to perform live migration of KVM virtual machines and execute dynamic resource scheduling through the Red Hat management layer.
Last I knew, NTT Communications was hosting storage as a beta online service in Japan last November, built upon Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization.
All of these uses indicate that KVM has gotten a foothold in some large adoptions. Open source and cloud computing go well together because, whatever the software, it needs to be replicated on short notice in the cloud environment to make the cloud elastic -- expanding and contracting with demand. Red Hat initially started down the road of supporting open source Xen as an alternative to VMware. Then open source developers cooled to the Xen project and began focusing their attention on KVM.
Xen was influenced by and served the purposes of several major vendors, including Sun Microsystems, Oracle, IBM and Citrix Systems. What was good for Citrix in the long run proved good for Microsoft. Citrix, a close Microsoft partner, acquired XenSource, with the Xen brain trust, and Microsoft and Citrix Systems both standardized their VM on Microsoft's VHD format. Open source loyalties, shifting before the deal was announced, were accelerated afterward.
KVM or Kernel-based Virtual Machine was the brainchild of Avi Kivity at the Israeli startup, Qumranet. The key maintainers of the Linux kernel development process took a quick liking to KVM and included it in the 2.6.20 kernel in February 2007. It became part of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4 in September 2009.
Being the open source favorite may bring you fame but does it mean KVM will it have an impact on the commercial market? How much of an impact on cloud computing? Will the Avi Kivity team now at Red Hat spur ongoing development, keep KVM in close synchronization with the Linux kernel (it uses the kernel's scheduler and memory manager) and avoid conflicts? IBM, Voddler, NTT and the Symbian Foundation have placed early bets that it will. I'll be watching to see who follows. Citrix and VMware have been leapfrogging each other in virtualization features, but virtualization is more like a marathon than a 100-yard dash. Perhaps the new kid at the back of the pack is going to be closer to front by the time we get to the finish line.
Whether government agencies are assessing internal clouds, public cloud services, or private-public hybrid cloud environments, this report shows where open source may fit into those plans. Download it now (registration required).