Last month I blogged about the surprising level of hypervisor diversity that we’re seeing in use by customers – as shown by a report published by Gabriel Consulting and based on a survey of hundreds of IT professionals.
Now I want to discuss what’s behind this – why are so many customers mixing x86 hypervisors, and what are their reasons?In essence, it comes down to three factors – lower cost, technical differences, and customer ability to manage multiple hypervisors.
You can read more about what’s driving hypervisor diversity in the second new Gabriel Consulting Report ‘Hyperversity’ Driven by Technical & Cost Differences.
Cost differences matter
The first and most obvious factor is cost. We’re seeing the familiar cycle of high-priced proprietary technologies being challenged by lower-cost open source innovation – the same situation that played out with Linux, Eclipse and Apache.
Although the Gabriel Consulting report shows that customers value proprietary hypervisor technology, it also shows that the costs of implementing this everywhere can often be too high and half of the respondents agreed with the statement “Cost issues make standardizing on one suite too expensive…”
We’re also hearing this from our customers, from large banks to cloud providers. Cost is one of the main reasons they’re adopting KVM.
But according to the report, while cost is a driver for hyperversity, it isn’t the major driver. Intriguingly, that’s technical factors.
Technical differences matter even more
71% of respondents agreed with the statement “Technical differences between various solutions drive hypervisor diversity”.
The first and most obvious factor behind this is affinity between the hypervisor and the operating system. This is clearly a major factor for KVM and Linux, as well as for Hyper-V and Windows. Hypervisors and operating systems need to perform many of the same tasks – starting processes, managing memory, accessing devices. If the Linux comes with the hypervisor already included, and integrated, and tested, then that’s a strong reason for adopting KVMr.
The second factor is that hypervisors such as KVM which are based on an existing operating system don’t need to reinvent the wheel and can exploit the scalability, security and device support that’s already there. This is one of the reasons why KVM holds the top seven SpecVirt performance benchmarks – it’s leveraging Linux which already has the scalability.
The final factor is how suitable the hypervisor is to supporting cloud computing. The Gabriel Computing report saw a data correlation between KVM and private cloud projects, and speculated on whether there is something about KVM that makes it more amenable to driving private clouds.
We think that the scalability and high VM density provided by KVM, along with its open approach and low cost, makes it a great choice for cloud computing. This is why IBM uses KVM as the hypervisor for both its public cloud, IBM SmartCloud Enterprise, and also its largest internal private cloud, the IBM Research Compute Cloud.
Managing multiple hypervisors
Of course, the adoption of multiple hypervisors, like the prevalence of multiple operating systems, means that customers have to be able to manage the hypervisor diversity successfully.
In the early days of adoption, IT shops are likely to use the virtualization management tools most closely connected with the hypervisors – VMware’s vCenter, Microsoft’s Systems Center, and Red Hat’s Enterprise Virtualization – Management.
As the hypervisor diversity trend continues, this means having multiple management tools and multiple skill sets.
The idea of managing a mixed hypervisor environment from a single pane of glass then becomes increasingly attractive – whether from ISVs in the Open Virtualization Alliance such as Zenoss and ManageIQ, or enterprise systems management vendors such as IBM with Tivoli and IBM Systems Director VMControl.
Whatever happens, it looks like hypervisor diversity is here to stay for at least the next few years – and that promises to make for interesting times.
Program Director, Linux and Open Virtualization Strategy, IBM