Who Is Developing KVM Linux Virtualization?

By Sean Michael Kerner (Send Email)
Posted Feb 11, 2010


Five years ago, the open source Xen hypervisor was the primary technology that big vendors like IBM and Red Hat were adopting and pushing. In 2010, that's no longer the case as the rival KVM effort is now getting the attention of both IBM (NYSE: IBM) and Red Hat (NYSE: RHT), as well as many others in the Linux ecosystem. IBM, once a lead backer of the Xen open source hypervisor, reveals that it's fully in the KVM camp now.

So what does this mean for the KVM community and the future of Xen? An IBM study looking at who's most involved in KVM may provide some answers.

Mike Day, chief virtualization architect for open systems development at IBM, noted during the Red Hat-sponsored Open Source Cloud Computing Forum this week that the KVM development community has become very active in 2009 -- encompassing a wide array of organizations.

He said that after examining the project's mailing list to gauge the activity taking place in KVM development, he found that there were some 884 unique participants in the mailing list, roughly equivalent to the number of active KVM developers. Those participants were spread across 382 unique address domains from somewhere in the range of 250 to 300 separate. According to Day, organizations that participate in KVM range from large corporations, to government and educational organization, as well as individual contributors.

That data also helped Day determine the top four contributors to KVM as measured by activity on the development mailing list. In first place is Red Hat, with 9,471 messages out of a total 18,303 messages, representing nearly 52 percent of list traffic for 2009.

Red Hat's interest in KVM flows in part from the company's acquisition of Qumarent in 2008 for $107 million. Qumranet is the vendor that originated the KVM technology. As of late 2009 with the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4 release, KVM is also the preferred method for virtualization on its platform.

Red Hat isn't the only group active in KVM development, though. Day's list put IBM in the No. 2 spot with 1,382 messages or 8 percent of the KVM developer list traffic. Novell and Intel round out the list with approximately 5 percent each.

What About Xen?

IBM began contributing to Xen around January 2005 and has continued its work with that technology. Xen had also been a part of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.0, which was released in 2007, though Red Hat has since moved to KVM.

But with IBM so clearly embracing of KVM, is Big Blue likely to follow Red Hat? And where does that leave IBM customers that are running Xen?

"IBM is still actively supporting our RHEL and enterprise Linux customers who use Xen," Day told InternetNews.com. "We validate our System X platforms on Xen and fix problems reported by our customers. We will continue to do so as long as we have customers using Xen."

Moving forward, though, the future for IBM's current Xen users isn't terribly bright.

"In terms of new feature development, we are focusing on KVM and we have not directly been involved in upstream Xen development since 2008," Day said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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