Is Microsoft supporting Windows on (the Cisco version of) KVM?

Posted by Staff   |   Friday, January 16th, 2009   |  

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One of the biggest challenge when adopting a new virtualization platform is securing the ISVs support.
Without it moving from the market leader to a more innovative or cheaper solution is a risky business.

It’s the case of KVM, the open source virtualization platform that is part of the Linux Kernel since version 2.6.20 and that is attracting a large number of developers (away from Xen, we were told).

KVM may be very cool, and the fact that Red Hat acquired its maintainer, the startup Qumranet, certainly ignites high hopes for the platform.
But the reality is that, at today, KVM is still too young to feature the ISVs support that VMware, Citrix or Microsoft can offer.

Excluding IBM, which just started to its Lotus Notes, Symphony and a bunch of other applications on the Virtual Bridges implementation of KVM, no other major IT vendor is officially endorsing KVM.

As often happens, Microsoft is the key to change this situation: it’s now more than clear that virtualization is being used across the globe to virtualize and consolidate in large majority Windows boxes.
If Microsoft officially supports Windows in a KVM virtual machine then the other ISVs will follow, and the customers can start adopting the solution with confidence.

With much surprise it’s possible that the unlikely event already happened.

As most readers remember Cisco is using a mysterious virtualization platform inside its Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) 4.1 appliance. 
Despite the company stays mum about the VMM used inside WAAS, in the past months received a remarkable number of confirmations from different sources that the appliance is almost certainly powered by KVM.

Now Cisco is selling WAAS 4.1 and its new virtualization capabilities certifying its use as a platform where the core Microsoft services (part of Windows) can be consolidated.
To do so Cisco joined the Microsoft Server Virtualization Validation Program (SVVP) in August 2008. But the SVVP program doesn’t include Windows support.

This means that, through the SVVP program, Microsoft is supporting its core services inside the Cisco WAAS 4.1 virtual machines (which are, we are almost sure, KVM virtual machines), but not the operating system itself.
So, who is supporting Windows exactly? 

The only two possibilities are that Cisco is in charge for the OS support, and it seems unlikely, or it’s Microsoft that is making an exception and is supporting its operating system inside KVM, at least the Cisco implementation of it.

The reason why all these details are unclear, and Cisco customers should investigate before buying WAAS 4.1, is the business relationship of the two software giants: Cisco is definitively in bed with VMware and it’s preparing to make a major announcement, while Microsoft is totally in love with Citrix, which probably isn’t too happy to know that KVM is being supported so quickly.

If it will emerge that Microsoft officially supports Windows on KVM, this may further boost the Red Hat chances to attract customers with its upcoming new virtualization platform.

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