Friday, September 17, 2010

KVM: Your Gateway to Open Source Server Virtualization

Red Hat KMVThe thought of switching to a virtualized infrastructure sends a shiver down the spines of most CIOs. Things like security concerns, performance uncertainty, and scalability questions are many examples of things that make the physical-to-virtualization fear so prominent. However, the Kernel Virtual Machine (KVM) from Red Hat is poised to put an end to those fears.

KVM runs along the same lines as Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware ESX/vSphere. Just like all of these, KVM is a full virtualization technology. What that means is that virtual machines (VMs) built with KVM fully abstract computer hardware allow the operating systems to run believing that they are running on physical hardware. Memory, CPU, disk, peripherals, NICs and graphics adapters compose VMs using full virtualization technology.

The biggest thing talked about when thinking of moving to a virtual infrastructure is definitely security. Virtualization, as well as cloud computing, have received negative remarks from techies and industry participants. However, VMs are not less secure than your physical machine nor are they any more secure. Just because they are virtual doesn't mean anything is changing on the security front.

If you switch to virtual, you must still take the same security precautions that you would with a physical machine. You will need to cut out unneeded services, throw on some anti-virus protection, install a few security fixes and provide firewall protection for all of your VMs.

Performance is another issue people bring to the table. People seem to think that going VM means you have to sacrifice performance. Untrue. Red Hat boasts that the highest computing workloads (Excahnge, SAP, Oracle and Java) experience performance that is at least 90% better than that of physical machines on KVM. Some workloads, like LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP) workloads, experience up to 140% greater performance on KVM.

Probably the last thing people throw into the virtualization debate is scalability. KVM's multi-core technology exploitation makes it exponentially more scalable than adding a bunch of under-utilized physical machines to your data center matrix. VMs are able to handle workloads with ease in stressed environments.

KVM gives you anything and everything you could need with the familiarity of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). Now I know a lot of people out there are like me, a "try before you buy" type of person. Well, for people like us, you can download and use KVM as Promox, which is not affiliated with Red Hat. This combines containers and KVM into a single hypervisor package.

KVM is definitely a major contender in the enterprise virtualization market. It is capable of holding its own against VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix XenServer. KVM has good performance, security and scalability which should quash any fears you may be having about switching to virtualization technology.
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