April 21, 2010, 12:55 PM — The Linux KVM hypervisor is gaining steam in the cloud computing market, with two major vendors using the virtualization software to create cloud platforms to compete against Amazon's popular EC2 service.
While KVM isn't on the verge of supplanting VMware, Microsoft or the open source Xen hypervisor in the enterprise, Planet officials say KVM offers numerous advantages in commercial cloud offerings.
KVM is easier for Linux developers to use than Xen because "Xen was never really integrated into Linux," says Carl Meadows, senior manager of product marketing for The Planet. "It sits outside Linux as a separate microkernel." KVM, meanwhile, "was built directly into Linux and uses Linux as the host … The KVM is much simpler and more elegant than Xen."
KVM's integration into Linux makes it easier to get patches out to customers, whereas deploying patches from a separate virtualization software requires more legwork, he says. Also, KVM helps The Planet give its cloud customers freedom to customize the kernel running on their virtual servers, while the portability of the software allows virtual machines to be easily migrated to physical servers and vice versa, he says.
"Since KVM operates natively, it's a lot easier for us to create a dynamic hybrid environment than it would be with Xen," Meadows says.
The Planet runs seven co-location data centers worldwide and has 20,000 customers running 15 million Web sites. More than 80% of its customers already use Linux.
But The Planet is a newcomer to the cloud computing space, which consists of virtualized server instances and on-demand storage rather than dedicated hardware. The Planet's cloud service is in public beta and is running more than 500 virtual servers on Intel Nehalem-based dual-core machines shipped by Dell.
Amazon EC2, a giant in the cloud computing market, uses Xen virtualization, but Meadows says he believes KVM will be the open source hypervisor of choice in the long term, and points to IBM's recent deployment to support his argument.