Open Source Virtualization Saves Money


Open source delivers proven technology for less. wiredFINANCE covered open source Linux developments about a year ago here. Open source continues to grow as a viable and valuable technology sourcing option and is experiencing ever-increasing acceptance in the mainstream.

Virtualization, similarly, is a powerful technology that enables numerous benefits and generates significant savings. The savings come mainly through IT resource consolidation. When you add open source to the virtualization equation, it creates another avenue to savings.

Open source virtualization, noted Jean Staten Healy, IBM's worldwide Cross-IBM Linux and Open Virtualization Director, presents opportunities to reduce virtualization costs in the usual ways and more. For example, the inclusion of the open source KVM hypervisor built into enterprise Linux distributions at no additional charge reduces need for additional hypervisors, enabling the organization to avoid buying more proprietary VMware licenses. And that's just a start.

KVM also enables higher virtual machine density for more savings. IDC's Al Gillen and Gary Chen put out a white paper detailing the recent KVM advances.

Open source refers to software in which the source code is made available to all users. Typically it is provided free of the usual software licensing fees although there may be comparatively modest service and support fees. Proprietary software vendors for obvious reasons dismiss open source as inferior, but that's not true. If you use Linux you are running open source software, your SaaS providers probably run some open source code, and your website most likely includes open source Apache software. The KVM hypervisor built into Linux is just the latest in a long list of industrial-strength, enterprise-capable open source software.

The hypervisor, the key component of virtualization, can be costly. Proprietary VMware, the industry leader, commands significant license fees. With its latest pricing plan introduced last year, the standard license starts at about $1000. Enterprise costs are based on processor sockets and memory and, given how licenses are calculated, VMware can require four times as many licenses as previously needed, which dramatically increases the cost. Depending on the amount of memory VMware licensing costs could run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Thus, the attraction of the KVM open source hypervisor.

The ability to manage a mixed KVM- VMware virtualization environment through a single tool further increases the cost efficiency of open source virtualization. IBM's System Director VMControl provides mixed hypervisor, cross-platform management.

The combination of KVM technical advances, the steadily increasing adoption of KVM, and the inclusion of KVM as a core feature of the Linux operating system is driving more enterprises deploy KVM along with VMware. That KVM comes for free as part of the Linux core means you can try it at no cost and minimal risk.

Enterprise Linux users are now using KVM where they previously would not have even bothered to virtualize a particular workload. This makes sense for several reasons; free being just one of them. Other reasons include the integration of the KVM and Linux toolsets and the fact that Linux admins already know how to use it. By mixing KVM into their virtualization strategy organizations can gradually expand their use of virtualization and the benefits it delivers while reducing, or at least delaying, the need to buy more VMware licenses, again saving money.

wiredFINANCE expects VMware will remain the dominant x86 virtualization platform going forward. However, it makes sense to grab every opportunity to use open source KVM for enterprise-class virtualization and save money wherever you can.

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