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IBM and the Open Virtualization Alliance

ibm open virtualizationThe virtualization world is in constant flux. As one of the newest trends in IT, there are plenty of vendors and VARs out there jockeying for position. While the idea of the virtual machine isn’t particularly new, the ability to provide virtualized servers in an efficient and relatively inexpensive manner means that the landscape is changing. One of the more interesting trends to watch is what’s happening with the Open Virtualization Alliance.

The Open Virtualization Alliance has as its aim the promotion of the Linux Kernel-based Virtual Machine, or KVM, in the enterprise. IBM and Red Hat were the originators of the Alliance, but since then many other vendors have joined the cause, including HP, Intel, and others.

What is KVM?

KVM is a new approach to virtualization technology. This technology actually uses the Linux kernel itself as the hypervisor, providing Windows and Linux client services in the same way VMware or Hyper-V. Because KVM is integral to the Linux kernel, the Alliance doesn’t actually have full responsibility for KVM, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t heavily involved. Hardware vendors involved in KVM intend to, in the long run, commoditize the hypervisor, and the software vendors seem to be intent on using it as a way to sell support and services.

A high priority for IBM

The Alliance isn’t just something that giants like HP or IBM are dabbling in, either. According to IBM, right now there are more than 60 IBM engineers involved in KVM, and it represents the largest technical investment of the open systems and solutions area of that company.

One of the lessons here of IBM’s support of the KVM is that the company is committed to meeting customer needs where they are at. They recognize that one size doesn’t fit all. The company, as a matter of course, continues to support VMware and Hyper-V. In some ways, its support of multiple hypervisors is akin to its support of multiple processors.

The power of leverage

One of the big benefits that KVM has over previously-strong competitors like Xen is that, because it’s built into the kernel, it can leverage other Linux features like memory management or scheduling, taking full advantage of the Linux environment. It does require hardware virtualization support, but today that support is built into most processors.

While KVM isn’t quite ready yet for enterprise-level implementation, the potential is certainly there. It will be the one virtualization alternative to VMware and Microsoft’s Hyper-V to watch closely.


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Unitiv, Inc., is a professional provider of enterprise IT solutions. Unitiv delivers its services from its headquarters in Alpharetta, Georgia, USA, and its regional office in Iselin, New Jersey, USA. Unitiv provides a strategic approach to its service delivery, focusing on three core components: People, Products, and Processes. The People to advise and support customers. The Products to design and build solutions. The Processes to govern and manage post-implementation operations.