Red Hat, IBM, and Friends Gang Up On VMware, Ignore PowerVM
May 23, 2011 Timothy Prickett Morgan
As IBM knows full well, when you are the 800-pound gorilla, the juggernaut, or the leviathan in any part of the IT industry–and you are making money–then everyone is gunning for you. And with the pole position in the X64 server virtualization racket, and a desire to extend that to virtualized PCs and tablets as well as to cloudy infrastructure, VMware has big red bull’s eyes plastered all over itself.
Last week, server and desktop virtualization wannabe Red Hat teamed up with IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, SUSE (now part of Attachmate), BMC Software, and Eucalyptus Systems to promote what they are calling the Open Virtualization Alliance. Another in a long line of consortia launched to promote this or that in the IT industry that doesn’t do much aside from show you where the fault lines are in a particular market. Think of these things like seismic data, I guess.
The members of the Open Virtualization Alliance are all very keen on KVM, the kernel-based virtual machine that was created by a company called Qumranet and launched mainly as a desktop virtualization tool back in October 2007. Red Hat embedded the open source Xen hypervisor, which is a bit of a bolt-on for the Linux kernel, to its Enterprise Linux 5, as did the former Novell with SUSE Linux 10. But eventually Red Hat saw KVM, which was added to the mainstream Linux kernel project, and figured this was a better and smoother way to do server and desktop virtualization and so it paid $105 million in 2008 to buy Qumranet. Rivals Canonical, which runs the Ubuntu Linux distro, and SUSE Linux agree that KVM is easier to maintain. But Xen has plenty of adherents, including Amazon for its EC2 compute cloud, Citrix Systems, which controls the Xen project, and Oracle with its commercialized Xen variant.
Of course, VMware wants nothing to do with either KVM or Xen, and the wonder is why Citrix and Red Hat have not just agreed to make a single open source hypervisor for X64-based machines, taking the best ideas of both and creating a real open virtualization alliance. It would also be interesting to see a variant of the merged KVM-Xen hypervisor available for other platforms. Or at least for a cloudy management tool stack to at least admit things like PowerVM, Solaris containers, and z/VM exist and create a single tool to manage them. Of course, if that happened then you know someone would try to deploy an IBM i image to a guest partition on an X64 server. . . . Imagine if it worked?
KVM should be taken seriously, and the Eucalyptus, OpenStack, and CloudForms cloud fabrics for managing clouds that are available are serious contenders to VMware’s ESX hypervisor, vSphere extensions, and vCloud Director fabric. VMware has most of the corporate clients, and mostly virtualizing Windows Servers, but KVM is free and so are the tools that wrap around it, which means service providers will in many cases lead with a KVM-based cloud. (IBM did with the initial SmartCloud public clouds.) KVM hypervisors can span a host with up to 4,096 cores and 64 TB of main memory, with guests that can have up to 64 cores and 2 TB of memory allocated to them (512 GB per guest is the practical limit on most physical servers today). That is, in theory, a lot further than PowerVM scales on Power-based servers. But the theoretical limits of KVM have not been tested in practice.
KVM is interesting, but it is hard to see this Open Virtualization Alliance actually doing much than be a cheerleader for KVM. It is not a focal point of development or even co-development, but rather an educational group that will publish best practices guides and do some marketing. It will help, but it is not like these vendors have agreed to cooperate on KVM development. Red Hat controls the KVM project, and that will not change any time soon. He who pays the programmers makes the rules, no matter how open a community says it is.
The only reason that any of this matters to OS/400 and i shops is that thanks to the client/server revolution and its dot-com hangover, they happen to have ba-zillions of Windows servers doing all kinds of stuff in their shops, and sooner or later this stuff has to be virtualized. Every penny that doesn’t go to VMware goes for the IBM i 8.1 upgrade along with a shiny new Power8 server sometime around 2013.