Ravello Systems raises $26M to build a cloud hypervisor for developers

KVM founders create a cloud virtualization startup that bridges the virtual data center and the public cloud

In September 2008, Red Hat acquired the KVM hypervisor virtualization startup Qumranet for $107 million. The co-founders behind Qumranet's open source virtualization technology, Benny Schnaider and Rami Tamir, have moved on and now return with a new startup called Ravello Systems. The duo's new company aims to repeat the success that VMware has had with server virtualization in relation to the x86 server market and the data center. Only this time around, Schnaider and Tamir are looking to create a hypervisor technology that spans data centers and public clouds in order to easily bring enterprise applications into the cloud.

Ravello is calling its solution a cloud application hypervisor, and it's built with a new high-performance nested hypervisor technology called HVX. The solution is initially being offered in a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model.

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Coinciding with the company's coming out of stealth mode last week, Ravello revealed it has successfully raised an additional $26 million in financing from Sequoia Capital, Norwest Venture Partners, and Bessemer Venture Partners. The sizable investment is a testament to the company's leadership team and their extensive experience in this field.

Ravello president and chairman Schnaider said in a statement that the company's cloud application hypervisor "encapsulates multi-VM applications along with their entire environment including the VMs, networking, storage, etc. so that enterprises can run any application in any cloud without making any changes."

A typical hypervisor like VMware or KVM is designed to run on a physical server. But HVX is designed to run inside a virtual machine. Ravello analyzes the application and normalizes it so that it is abstracted from the virtual machine it's running on. By abstracting the application from the underlying VM that it's running on, the application becomes more portable. The application no longer knows or cares whether it's running on a VMware vSphere hypervisor or on an open source KVM hypervisor.

To make this happen, Ravello's cloud application hypervisor is powered by three core technology components:

  • A high-performance nested hypervisor, HVX, which is the engine behind Ravello's ability to normalize application environments across any cloud without any changes
  • An IO overlay that consists of software-defined networking and storage, enabling any networking topology on top of any cloud
  • An application framework that enables a monolithic definition of an end-to-end multi-VM application, including all of its infrastructure

Unlike existing cloud management platforms, Ravello does not require modifications to the applications or VMs. This easy approach facilitates agile development and testing today, which is the first use-case scenario that the company is focusing on with its initial beta launch. In the future, the company's technology may also make it easier for organizations to employ an approach to hybrid cloud computing known as "cloud bursting," as well as disaster recovery and other on-demand use-cases that are ideal for the cloud.

In March of last year, Navin Thadani, who was in charge of the Red Hat's Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) product line, left to join Ravello as senior vice president in charge of products. Thadani says HVX allows developers to use the cloud more effectively and efficiently, thereby solving some of the biggest challenges of moving existing applications from the data center to the cloud, along with developing and deploying new applications in the cloud.

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