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Intel, IBM, and HP back open source against VMware

The KVM Open Virtualization Alliance

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Security for virtualized datacentres

Some of tech's biggest names are standing up to VMware, creating an industry group meant to accelerate the adoption of an open-source virtualization stack built atop the KVM hypervisor.

Known as the Open Virtualization Alliance , the group includes IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, and KVM Linux distro leader Red Hat as well as Novell, BMC, and Eucalyptus Systems. It was announced on Tuesday at the Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco, where Intel, HP, Red Hat, IBM, and Novell spoke about the effort.

The alliance will educate users on best practices and provide technical advice to help them "understand and evaluate their" – ahem – "virtualization options". This will include developer use cases, but beyond that, it's not clear what the hardware vendors - who have the most resources of all the Alliance members - will throw at KVM.

The objective is to raise the profile of KVM and encourage software partners to build tools that make KVM more than just a commodity hypervisor and to help improve the overall management and deployment of applications on KVM. And to catch VMware.

Red Hat reckons the alliance will have no problem attracting small software partners because the member companies won't compete with them or take their business. Scott Crenshaw, vice president and general manager for Red Hat's cloud computing business unit, delivered some harsh words for VMware when asked by The Reg how this group of big-name IT companies will attract developers.

"We are going to have a large number of smaller companies involved," Crenshaw predicted. "VMware is following a strategy that Microsoft did, of create a big ecosystem, take over what's hot, and put the smaller vendor out of business. What we are offering is an open environment and a level playing field... and it's an emerging market where you are not going to have a company that wants to own everything."

Crenshaw said "everybody wants an open alternative to VMware. The infrastructure of the future cloud has to be based on open source." He also said there's been much interest in the project, claiming Red Hat had to stop taking calls about the project to get the news announcement out. IBM director of worldwide Linux Jean Staten Healy said the Alliance is "open" to adding new members. "We want to create an environment that welcomes the smaller players," she said. The Alliance is an idea three months in the making. It started with IBM and Red Hat.

While it's no surprise that Red Hat should join a KVM-centric effort – the company is the largest Linux distro by market share and it uses KVM more than any other distro – it's notable that long-term VMware partners IBM, HP, and Intel have put their names onto an initiative that backs an open-source rival to VMware.

VMware has the highest virtualization market share, a share that cloud computing is only helping to consolidate. As the tech industry embraces cloud computing, companies are keen to avoid a repeat of the 1990s, during the desktop-PC boom, when a single company - Microsoft – was the monopoly supplier of the single piece of software that everybody came to rely on.

The hardware giants didn't follow Crenshaw in attacking VMware. Rather, they talked about KVM reaching some kind of tipping point in terms of uptake. The director of HP's Open-Source Office, Phil Robb, sang with the rest in saying that KVM needs to get better. "The bottleneck that existing in KVM is the rest of the solution stack in that ecosystem," Robb said.

Intel wants to make its chips work with the KVM technology stack "at scale", meaning they're drive servers across very large data centers. Mike Richmond, technology planning director for Intel's open-source technology center, said: "We think KVM is at a point where it needs the frosting on the cake - the tools and the solutions and frankly the marketing, because up until recently it was still in the bake it and so on [phase]."

But this is about more than VMware. In picking KVM, the giants are bypassing the open source Xen hypervisor, whose chief corporate patron is Citrix Systems. Jum Wasko, the director of IBM's Linux technology center, said that IBM will continue to support Xen, but all new development will be on KVM. IBM has 60 people developing KVM. ®

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