Understanding KVM’s role in modern cloud environments

Understanding KVM's role in modern cloud environments

KVM has advanced from a simple virtualization solution to a critical component of cloud infrastructure. KVM’s strengths stem from its open-source nature, compatibility with a variety of operating systems, and integration with major cloud management tools, which highlight its adaptability and efficiency for modern cloud applications.

KVM has emerged as a viable alternative to other hypervisors, including ESX and Hyper-V. KVM’s journey, marked by significant advances in performance, security, and scalability, positions it as a strong choice for businesses looking for a cost-effective and powerful virtualization solution.

In a recent Platform9 livestream titled “KVM’s Time Has Come: Approaches to Using KVM for Hobbyists and Enterprise Operators,” experts including Kevin Carter from Rackspace, Roopak Parikh, and Sirish Raghuram from Platform9 engaged in a comprehensive discussion about the Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM). To delve into the detailed insights shared, watch the full livestream.

Here is a summary of the conversation:

KVM at Rackspace: An evolutionary journey

Rackspace, a managed cloud services leader, provides a fascinating case study on KVM adoption and evolution. Kevin from Rackspace shared insights into the KVM journey at Rackspace, including its initial adoption, shifting perspectives over time, and current and future roles in the company’s cloud infrastructure.

Initial adoption and the shift in perspective

Rackspace’s journey with KVM began with a search for a less expensive alternative to traditional hypervisors. Initially, the company used various virtualization technologies, such as Xen and XenServer, for different aspects of its cloud services.  The decision was influenced by factors such as performance, particularly for Windows-type workloads, and the technological landscape of the time.ape of that period.

However, as KVM developed and matured, its benefits became more apparent. The performance gap, which previously existed, particularly in the context of Windows workloads, began to close. KVM’s increasing ability to handle diverse and demanding cloud workloads, combined with its efficiency in resource management, began to position it as a more appealing option for Rackspace’s infrastructure requirements.

The role of KVM in Rackspace’s current infrastructure

KVM now plays a key role in Rackspace’s cloud infrastructure. Its ability to scale dynamically and manage resources efficiently has been critical to the company’s ability to provide robust and scalable cloud solutions. The transition to KVM is consistent with Rackspace’s overall strategy to leverage open-source technologies, demonstrating a commitment to flexibility, innovation, and the support of a vibrant open-source community.

The future of KVM at Rackspace

Looking ahead, Rackspace plans to further integrate KVM into its cloud services. This integration signifies a long-term commitment to KVM, driven by its proven reliability, scalability, and ongoing support and innovation from the open-source community. The future of KVM at Rackspace is not just about maintaining its current applications but also about exploring new frontiers and capabilities, particularly in areas like AI, machine learning, and big data analytics.

Managing KVM: OpenStack vs KubeVirt

The livestream featured an in-depth discussion on two primary management systems for KVM: OpenStack and KubeVirt. Both systems offer unique strengths and capabilities, catering to different use cases in the management of KVM environments.

OpenStack: Comprehensive cloud infrastructure management

OpenStack is an open-source cloud computing platform that provides a rich set of tools for managing and orchestrating cloud infrastructure. It’s known for its comprehensive control over networking, storage, and compute resources, making it ideal for large-scale cloud deployments. OpenStack’s modular architecture allows for extensive customization, thus meeting a wide range of enterprise needs.

Strengths and use cases for OpenStack

  • Multi-tenancy and network isolation: OpenStack excels in environments where multi-tenancy and robust network isolation are required. It offers sophisticated network management capabilities, including software-defined networking (SDN), making it a strong contender for traditional IaaS solutions.
  • Compatibility with various technologies: OpenStack supports a wide range of networking, storage, and compute technologies, allowing enterprises to integrate and manage their diverse infrastructure components efficiently.
  • Scalability and flexibility: The platform’s design enables scalability and flexibility, crucial for large data centers and enterprise-grade deployments. OpenStack can manage vast numbers of virtual machines and can be scaled up or down based on the workload demands.
  • Mature ecosystem: OpenStack’s maturity in the market means a broad ecosystem of vendors and third-party integrations. This mature ecosystem provides enterprises with a range of options for support, services, and additional tools.

KubeVirt: Integrating KVM with Kubernetes

KubeVirt is a relatively newer technology that extends Kubernetes by adding virtual machine management capabilities to its orchestration. It allows users to run and manage containers and virtual machines side by side in a Kubernetes environment. KubeVirt integrates VMs into the Kubernetes paradigm, using familiar Kubernetes workflows and APIs.

Strengths and use cases for KubeVirt

  • Container and VM orchestration: KubeVirt is particularly suitable for environments that are transitioning to containerized workloads but still require virtual machines for certain applications. It provides a unified platform to manage both VMs and containers.
  • Lightweight and Kubernetes-native: For deployments in smaller, edge locations or scenarios where Kubernetes is already the preferred orchestration tool, KubeVirt offers a lightweight, Kubernetes-native solution. It’s beneficial in use cases where the footprint is small, and the infrastructure needs to be self-contained.
  • Future-proofing infrastructure: Organizations leaning towards Kubernetes and cloud-native technologies will find KubeVirt aligning perfectly with their strategic direction. It enables them to modernize their applications gradually while maintaining their existing VM-based workloads.
  • Simplified management and operation: KubeVirt simplifies the operational complexity by leveraging Kubernetes’ existing mechanisms for deployment, scaling, and lifecycle management of applications. This integration reduces the overhead of learning and maintaining separate management systems for VMs and containers.

Specific insights from the speakers

  • Performance and latency sensitive workloads: KubeVirt has demonstrated impressive performance in specific deployments, particularly where high throughput and low latency are required, such as SD-WAN and firewall applications.
  • Flexibility and integration: The ability to manage VMs using Kubernetes APIs and tools opens up new possibilities for automation and integration, which can be particularly beneficial for DevOps teams already versed in Kubernetes.

The decision between OpenStack and KubeVirt should be based on an organization’s specific needs and infrastructure. OpenStack is ideal for large-scale, traditional cloud deployments that require strong multi-tenancy and network isolation capabilities. KubeVirt, on the other hand, is ideal for Kubernetes-centric environments and those who want to manage containers and virtual machines simultaneously.

Both systems provide compelling benefits and, in some cases, can be used in tandem to leverage their respective strengths in a single, integrated environment. The decision ultimately hinges on the organization’s specific requirements, existing technology stack, and strategic direction.

For a comprehensive discussion on various use cases, including private cloud, edge cloud, and telco cloud, check out the recording of the video above.

For more information and to leverage KVM in your cloud infrastructure, visit Platform9’s Platform9 Managed OpenStack and Platform9 Managed KubeVirt pages.

Kamesh Pemmaraju

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