IBM SmartCloud Provisioning is an workload optimized cloud which combines infrastructure and platform capabilities that allows quick cloud deployment – and support for KVM and multiple hypervisors helps keep costs under control.
Requirements for public and private cloud provisioning have similarities, but there are also key differences. All cloud providers, whether private or public, are concerned with availability and security. But public cloud providers have the added requirement to remain flexible to meet a wide range of customer deployment needs, while at the same time, keeping a firm grip on costs both to remain competitive as well as to ensure their own profitability. IBM SmartCloud Provisioning which was designed specifically in terms of infrastructure-as-a-service can play a role in all of those areas and provide additional capabilities with rapid composite application deployments.
Rather than requiring service providers to build a cloud from scratch using virtualization management tools, IBM SmartCloud Provisioning offers a high-scale, low-touch cloud provisioning system. It is a hypervisor-agnostic, infrastructure-as-a-service solution enabling fast, automated cloud provisioning, parallel scalability, integrated fault tolerance and a foundation for more advanced cloud capabilities. In addition, the private cloud environment offers near-zero downtime and automated recovery from hardware and software failures across heterogeneous platforms.
Support for Open Standards and Hypervisor-Agnostic
While IBM SmartCloud Provisioning was originally built on top of KVM (Kernel-based Virtualization Machine), support has been expanded to include VMWare ESXi, vCenter, PowerVM, HyperV and Xen as well. Support for multiple hypervisors is where we think the industry is going, and the benefit of KVM support in the mix is revealed when you look at the needs of the cloud providers.
Cloud providers are on very tight budgets and they will succeed in terms of selling their services only if they are able to provide IT services to customers at a lower cost than the customers could provide for themselves, so it is very cost-competitive. In order for the cloud service providers to make a profit, the cost of the underlying infrastructure is really important. And then, to retain cloud customers, the reliability, speed and scalability are also very important.
For example, Dutch Cloud is a leading ISP based in the Netherlands, focused on SME customers in a few key industries including healthcare and electronics. It provides a range of cloud based services – from fully managed IaaS through to disaster recovery solutions. Customers select DutchCloud for the quality of service delivered and its service assurance.
Dutch Cloud wanted to improve the delivery of its cloud services in terms of cost, speed, and agility, and minimize administration, as well as scale delivery costs to business volumes. Since implementing SmartCloud Provisioning, Dutch Cloud has been able to deploy new services in seconds rather than hours, and has even deployed hundreds of new VM instances in minutes. Adding the cost efficiency, Dutch Cloud has also been able to move a number of its customers from proprietary hypervisors to the more affordable KVM.
Because SmartCloud Provisioning is hypervisor-agnostic, you can match it with a range of hypervisors including VMWare ESXi, vCenter, PowerVM, HyperV and Xen. There are obviously going to be times when a client indicates a preference for a particular hypervisor. But when there is no specific preference and service is all that matters, then from the cloud provider’s point of view the decision plays out this way: If you have got equivalent capabilities in terms of hypervisor, and equivalents in terms of the virtualization management – because IBM SmartCloud Provisioning is available across a range of virtualization technologies – then it comes down to cost, and KVM wins there hands-down. SmartCloud Provisioning’s multi-hypervisor support enables the provider to offer a range of virtualization options without locking the customer in, and because KVM is lower cost than proprietary alternative, it opens up a level of affordability that would not be possible otherwise.
And in terms of security, for public sector customers in particular, KVM’s Common Criteria Certification at Evaluation Assurance Level 4+ (EAL4+) is significant. It means that, like other hypervisors, the KVM hypervisor on Red Hat Enterprise Linux and IBM x86 servers now meets government security standards allowing open virtualization to be used in homeland security projects, command-and-control operations, and throughout government agencies that previously were limited to proprietary virtualization technologies.
KVM also goes beyond competitors in terms of security with SELinux or Security-Enhanced Linux which provides much greater protection and isolation between virtual machines, and enables mandatory access control as opposed to just discretionary access control. With discretionary access control, permissions are based on a user’s role, whereas with mandatory access control a user has to be specifically authorized in order to access a particular resource. This means that if a virtual machine goes wrong and attempts to impersonate someone with a high role, then it can get around discretionary access control. But with mandatory access control, if a virtual machine goes wrong, it doesn’t matter because it still does not have the permission – so it is very important in terms of military-grade security which is why SELinux was actually developed by the National Security Agency. And, because KVM is based on top of Linux it is then able to use that for the virtual machines.
The Bottom Line for Cloud Providers
There are several things that cloud service providers have to consider in terms of provisioning a cloud. The first is the cost of software, second is the level of virtual machine density that can be achieved – in other words, on a particular piece of hardware how many virtual machines can go on that piece of hardware and still maintain a good quality of service because obviously the more virtual machines on the hardware, the lower the unit costs. And then, it is about what is the overall quality of service that is provided in terms of reliability, and performance, and finally, it is about management. What IBM SmartCloud Provisioning is all about is this: How do you provision high numbers of clouds very quickly with lots of instances of virtual machines on clouds with minimal need for administration – achieving maximum automation, maximum self-healing, and maximum detection of failures and recovery from failures.
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Jean Staten Healy
Director, Worldwide Linus and Open Virtualization, IBM