Red Hat adds to virtualization effort with acquisition

Acquisition will allow Red Hat Enterprise Linux to natively support virtualized Windows machines for the first time.

Linux vendor Red Hat Thursday jumped deeper into the virtualization marketplace by announcing its acquisition of Qumranet, which offers an embedded KVM (Kernel Virtual Machine) platform that will allow Red Hat to vastly expand its capabilities for customers.

One of the key parts of the US$107 million cash deal, said Paul Cormier (read an interview with Cormier), president and executive vice president of products and technologies at Red Hat, is that the KVM product will allow Red Hat Enterprise Linux to natively support virtualized Windows machines for the first time. That capability will be a boon to customers who want to adopt or expand their server virtualization, he said.

"Virtualization is in its infancy," Cormier said. "In one respect, we don't even separate virtualization from the operating system. We think the operating system with virtualization is the next-generation operating system."

By acquiring Qumranet and adding its KVM technologies into Red Hat's products, it will advance the marketplace, he said.

"This really moves us into the next generation virtualization arena and provides the ability for us to drive it and make it ubiquitous across every server," Cormier said. "Virtualization is just part of the plumbing."

While Red Hat has offered virtualization to customers since its Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5 release, it was provided through the third-party Xen hypervisor. "The technology continues to go forward," he said, allowing Red Hat to offer both as choices to customers looking at virtualization.

In June, Red Hat announced the development of a separate KVM-based hypervisor, which is in beta and is expected for release by the end of the year, he said.

Red Hat still hasn't announced what combination of the new virtualization capabilities will be built into the upcoming RHEL 6 operating system, Cormier said. Whatever is used, however, will be configured to work with all existing customer applications. "This is ensuring our customers that their applications will continue to work as the technology progresses forward," he said.

The Qumranet acquisition also adds the company's virtual desktop interface (VDI) capability to Red Hat's toolbox, which allows a systems administrator to spin up a virtual desktop for a user and then manage it remotely for easier system upkeep.

"We think they have the best VDI on the market now," Cormier said. "We'll accelerate that with our customer base."

The Qumranet acquisition also includes the company's SolidICE product, which allows high-performance, scalable desktop virtualization for virtual desktops by enabling a user's Windows or Linux desktop to run in a virtual machine hosted on a central server.

By combining the Qumranet embedded KVM hypervisor, a guest Windows or RHEL desktop operating system, a remote connection protocol called SPICE (Simple Protocol for Independent Computing Environments) to communicate between the guest OS and a thin client environment, and a centrally managed thin client machine that sits on the desktop, customers will be able to simplify their desktop deployments, according to Cormier.

"It's all of those pieces that are now coming out of Red Hat to put together this fairly complex" architecture and make it work easily, he said. "Windows as a guest operating system is much more conducive to running on the KVM hypervisor. With this, we'll be capable of doing this once we certify it with Microsoft."

Under the deal, Qumranet's employees and open source communities will join Red Hat, according to the companies.

"Red Hat customers enjoy highly responsive, flexible and cost-effective IT infrastructures," Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of Red Hat, said in a statement. "This acquisition furthers our capability to widen the gap between open source and proprietary infrastructure software."

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Todd R. Weiss

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