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Red Hat bags NTT as cloud partner

KVM virt for Japanese SMBs

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Server virtualization wannabe Red Hat has notched up another cloud computing win with its commercial-grade KVM hypervisor. Japanese telco and service provider NTT Communications has said it is building its new cloud and Web hosting facilities using Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization.

RHEV, as it is called in the lingo of Red Hatters, was launched in November 2009 as a bare-metal, standalone hypervisor a little more than a year after the company acquired Qumranet, the Israeli company behind the KVM hypervisor, for $107m. The KVM hypervisor was embedded in RHEL 5.4 back in September 2009, but it is the bare-metal version, which provides more isolation of workloads - and presumably better performance on server workloads - that cloud makers are interested in. RHEV 2.2 went into beta in late March and is based on the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.5 kernel that itself was announced at the same time. This supports all the most recent x64 processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, and it is this upcoming version of RHEV that no doubt is closing the deals.

That's because RHEV 2.2 can support 16 virtual CPUs in a guest partition atop the hypervisor and that partition can be equipped with as much as 1 TB of virtual memory, if the underlying hardware physically has it. That's a lot more memory than other server virtualization hypervisors can dedicate to their guests right now. Some service providers are also probably keen on the virtual-to-virtual (V2V) conversion tool, based on the open source libguestfs project, that can convert guest machines running VMware's ESX Server or Citrix Systems' XenServer hypervisors to KVM - including modifying the parts of the guest that are dependent on virt management tools. This is a true V2V conversion, not requiring system admins to muck about in virtual file systems and changing out management tools by hand, Red Hat claims. RHEV 2.2 is expected to be available in the coming months, and will likely be the star at the Red Hat Summit in Boston in early June.

RHEV has been getting some traction among service providers. In early March, Swedish movie-on-demand service Voddler said it was using RHEV to virtualize the brand-spanking-new Cisco Systems UCS blade servers behind its movie service. And a week later, IBM said that its test and development cloud for programmers, given the catchy name Smart Business Development and Test on the IBM Cloud, which will be available sometime this quarter, will be based on KVM running on x64 iron. The CloudBurst on-premise versions of the IBM Cloud are preconfigured with VMware's ESX Server 3.5. So in this case, that V2V converter is going to come in handy if RHEV lets you run it backwards, moving RHEV stacks in development to ESX stacks in production. It would be far easier for IBM to just carve up chunks of its eponymous cloud and let customers choose what hypervisor they want for test, dev, and production. But you get fewer press releases that way.

NNT Com was one of the key partners Red Hat tapped to get input for developing RHEV and was one of the beta testers for the product. And because NTT Com is a member of the Premier Certified Cloud Provider program, along with Amazon thanks to its EC2 service, that means customers with internal RHEL licenses can move them over to the BizHosting Basic cloud, or buy new RHEL licenses to deploy on the NTT cloud. Biz Hosting Basic has been in beta test since last October with 60 customers, and is being rolled out in Japan with a base server slice costing ¥7,350 (about $78) per month.

Don't get the wrong idea here. NTT Com may be tapping Red Hat RHEV for its BizHosting Basic virtual server cloud, but two weeks ago it announced that it was using VMware's ESX Server to peddle another product called the Global Virtualization Service, which is available in Japan, Europe, and the United States.

All service providers are going to have to offer multiple hypervisors because no one company is going to have the kind of dominance VMware enjoyed in the early days of x64 server virtualization. ®

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