Node.js is announcing a step in a different direction today: the company has ported Linux KVM to its SmartOS offering and is making SmartOS available as a ready to install distribution and putting all the source on GitHub.Joyent, a company well-known to RWW readers for its backing of
SmartOS is a "highly specialized distribution of Illumos." Illumos, as you might recall, is the fork of the OpenSolaris project that sprang up after Oracle snarfed Sun and decided to shutter OpenSolaris.
Given that Linux has a perfectly good KVM implementation, and Illumos has its Zones, one might wonder why Joyent took the time and engineering energy to port KVM over to SmartOS. Jason Hoffman, Joyent's chief scientist and founder, says that Joyent is looking to provide hardware virtualization for the Data Intensive Real-Time (DIRTY) environments that the company works with. Thanks to the Solaris/Illumos heritage, SmartOS already had Containers and Zones – container-based virtualization that allowed users to run multiple applications sets on one server isolated from one another.
With KVM on SmartOS, Joyent can now address workloads that require running a full operating system for those customers who need Linux, Windows, or other operating systems to run in full virtualization. And, unlike Linux, SmartOS will also give customers access to Solaris technologies that many users find compelling – like DTrace and ZFS. Hoffman says that, with networking bound or I/O bound workloads, that the company actually can make "very repetitive workloads 10x faster" when running on SmartOS with KVM thanks to ZFS and not running "a filesystem on a filesystem, or networking on networking."
The company isn't planning to sell the OS, at least outright. Hoffman says that, like Node.js, Joyent may offer support to companies that are looking for it – but it's not looking to sell SmartOS subscriptions and so forth.
SmartOS with KVM is immediately available for download, and Joyent is putting up the code under the required licenses on GitHub.
Will customers flock to SmartOS with KVM? A lot of developers and admins love the features that are present in the Solaris kernel, but aren't necessarily in love with the idea of proprietary Solaris. Having a well-supported variant with KVM and a strong open source community could be compelling.