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Red Hat is taking on VMware with five enterprise heavyweights through a vendor-neutral virtualisation community project based on its RHEV-M stack.

Red Hat has been joined by Cisco, IBM, Intel, NetApp and SuSE to lead oVirt Project, planning on building a pluggable hypervisor management framework along with an ecosystem of plug-in partners around its virtualisation management tool for KVM.

To seed the project and motivate the community, Red Hat is releasing the RHEV-M code to oVirt under an Apache Software Foundation (ASF) licence.

oVirt's official launch is in early November, at a workshop day that will be hosted by networking giant Cisco at its San Jose, California, campus. The ASF'd RHEV-M code will be released to Git repositories at this event. Today oVirt consists of 13 projects with the expectation for another two to be added by November.

Red Hat, IBM, Intel, Net App and SuSE are all taking seats on the oVirt governance board. The body's tasks include, among other things: defining the oVirt charter; ratifying, onboarding and supporting new projects; and co-ordinating release schedules.

The board will have an unlimited number of seats and membership will based on the contributions that each individual or entity makes to oVirt, with members being confirmed by other board members.

Red Hat is optimistic that oVirt will attract others from the industry, beyond the "Launch Six".

The push comes after Red Hat rallied many of the same enterprise giants to the Open Virtualization Alliance (OVA) in May to boost awareness and adoption of KVM against VMware.

The Linux distro vendor now hopes the OVA will become heavily involved in marketing oVirt. Joining Red Hat at the OVA launch earlier this year were IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Novell, BMC, and Eucalyptus Systems; today OVA claims more than 200 members.

The idea behind oVirt is to give people who want an alternative to VMware more than just the choice of going with a Red-Hat subscription for RHEV-M or using Microsoft's Hyper-V, Red Hat told us.

"This will make things radically different," Red Hat technical director Carl Trielof told The Reg. "Massive adopt of the technology as an alternative to VMware can only be a good thing."

"This is going to be the first open and openly governed community that's an alternative to VMware," he continued. The watch word here is "OpenStack", the open-cloud project Red Hat didn't participate in because it disagreed with a governance model and direction dominated by a single company: Rackspace.

oVirt has been in development for three months with Red Hat working on the governance model in with the other five according to Trielof.

"We are not owning the community as Rackspace did around OpenStack. If we really believed there should be an open virtualisation solution then the first question is not what's best for Red Hat, but it's what's best for the community and the user base. If the project thinks in those terms... then it'll be good for us and everybody."

Red Hat won't lose out by putting RHEV-M into the community, he claimed, because the company will continue to sell enterprise subscriptions to the hypervisor and management software. He drew an analogy between Red Hat's patronage of Fedora and its use as part of the company's Linux distro.

Trielof said the oVirt Project is being set up as a hybrid of Apache and Eclipse: the former being a place that hot-houses projects and elevates individuals to leadership roles based on their contributions to projects while the latter is based on the ability to build a technology framework that's enriched through a lively ecosystem of plug-ins from ISVs and individual developers. ASF founding member Jim Jagielski is helping on oVirt board to get it established.

Red Hat went with an independent organisation rather than dropping the oVirt projects into Apache because some features in the KVM are under the GPL and LGPL.

Also, there's no opportunity in Apache to release the hoped-for 15 oVirt projects as an integrated release – projects would have to be developed separately.

Trielof added that Red Hat wanted to create a brand and a location for the community rather than simply shunting it into Apache.

The vision is to emulate Eclipse, not just from the perspective of having an ecosystem of plug-in providers, but also in terms of delivering an integrated platform composed of projects and technologies.

Eclipse now provides an annual synchronised update for many of its projects to remove bugs and give those using and developing products on Eclipse a reliable platform. Eclipse in June put out its biggest single release so far: 62 projects, or 46 million lines of code.

Eclipse was kick-started by IBM in November 2001 as a community and technology project. IBM primed the project by donating $40m worth of source code from its Websphere Studio Workbench to create an open-source framework for Java and C++ server-side development.

The idea, on paper, was to build an open IDE framework that didn't lock in tools partners and that saved ISVs from having to constantly re-invent the basic building blocks of IDE such as syntax editors.

Red Hat was among the founding members of Eclipse with IBM, SuSE, Borland Software – now owned by MicroFocus – TogetherSoft, borged by Borland, and others. The group expanded quickly, hitting 80 members by the end of 2003, ultimately pulling in Oracle and SAP. By the late 2000s when it came to tools, the world was represented by Eclipse on Java and Microsoft on .NET.

Eclipse consolidated IBM's WebSphere while putting some tools vendors, like Borland, out of business and driving others into the arms of IBM. Eclipse broke out of being just an IDE project for the server in into PC and web development, business intelligence and even runtimes.

If oVirt is successful the Eclipse model might prove a burden for Red Hat as well as hurt VMware. For all the success of Eclipse and its long-list of community members, it's been IBM that over the years has consistently provided most of the manpower and code commits.

That has meant while Eclipse has helped IBM's Java business, IBM has been left pick up the bill on development while struggling to sell paid-for tools against Eclipse, whose price point starts at zero dollars. ®

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