Red Hat's implementation of KVM is the virtualization underpinning of the new software test and development service for the IBM Cloud. Red Hat hopes that vote of confidence will persuade enterprises to try KVM in their own IT shops.
The service, dubbed the Smart Business Development & Test on the IBM Cloud, will rely on Red Hat's commercialized KVM implementation, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) for Servers. KVM is an open source virtualization stack that supports both Linux and Windows guests, and is included in the Linux kernel.
Competitive Xen-based virtualization is the preferred virtualization technology in most current cloud computing scenarios such as Amazon Web Services while VMware is the established server virtualization incumbent. With this project, Red Hat and IBM teamed up to establish RHEV as an alternative to those virtualization powers for building out public clouds. Other customer wins for RHEV include Voddler, a Swedish Internet company and NTT Communications, a Japanese hosting provider.
"The goal of Red Hat and IBM is to create a unified ecosystem so we have a strong alternative to VMware," said Scott Crenshaw, vice president and general manager of Red Hat's Cloud Business Unit. He maintains that VMware has been using its "monopoly position" to limit how much organizations can afford to virtualize.
At the same time, "we don't want to repeat the history of Xen," which Crenshaw said consisted of 15 or so incompatible variants. KVM' s advantage is that it comes with market-leading Red Hat Enterprise Linux and is certified against RHEL's entire hardware and software ecosystem, he said.
Red Hat virtualization --a tough row to hoe
People outside of Red Hat say KVM and RHEV have a long way to go.
Among enterprise IT customers, interest in KVM is marginal, said Chris Wolf, senior analyst at Burton Group, at under 5% of inquiries, and then mostly from traditional Red Hat customers looking to kick the tires.
Chief among enterprise concerns about KVM is the lack of a third-party management ecosystem. When it comes to supporting virtualization, the priority for software vendors is VMware, then Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix XenServer. "KVM is fourth in line," Wolf said, and offerings probably won't start to appear until 2011.
VMware pricing might open the door for KVM
Cost-conscious virtualization users might give KVM a look down the line especially if it addresses those concerns and if VMware doesn't get more flexible on price.
AudienceScience, an online advertising delivery firm in New York, N.Y., currently virtualizes its Linux systems on VMware, but would consider KVM if VMware continues on its current price trajectory, said Nate Amsden, solutions architect.
"KVM doesn't have the management yet, or the scalability," Amsden said, but given the direction VMware's price is taking, "I don't see a bright feature for smaller companies." Case in point, Amsden said that while VMware reduced the price for entry level Essentials SKUs with the introduction of vSphere 4, prices were dramatically increased on the high-end.
And, enterprise server virtualization aside, KVM does hold promise as a client hypervisor, Wolf said. That's a path Red Hat is also pursuing with RHEV for Desktops, currently in beta.
"There's a reason Citrix and VMware don't have a client hypervisor yet -- it's not that easy," Wolf said. As a client hypervisor, "KVM gets all the Linux drivers without having to get a separate certification stack."