Virtualization Technology News and Information
Q&A: Interview with Ravello Systems, Talking Cloud Application Hypervisor and Solving the Hybrid Cloud Challenge

For the folks following along at home and who are studying their virtualization history, you will remember that back in September 2008, Red Hat acquired the KVM hypervisor virtualization startup Qumranet for $107 million.  Fast forward to 2013, and the co-founders behind Qumranet's open source virtualization technology, Benny Schnaider and Rami Tamir, have returned to the scene with a new startup called Ravello Systems.  And 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.

To find out more, I went straight to the source and spoke with Benny Schnaider, co-founder, president and chairman of the board at Ravello Systems.

VMblog:  You and your team at Ravello Systems announced the public beta of the industry's first Cloud Application Hypervisor and $26M of funding - congratulations!  Can you provide a little history on Ravello Systems?

Benny Schnaider:  Thank you! We are excited to now offer our technology to any enterprise developer or Devops specialist in beta. But before getting into the technology, for some background, Rami Tamir and I founded Ravello Systems in 2011. We previously founded Qumranet, Inc., and created the now standard KVM hypervisor (acquired by Red Hat in 2008). Prior to Qumranet, we founded Pentacom and P-Cube, which were acquired by Cisco Systems. So, our team brings deep expertise in virtualization, cloud, networking and storage technologies. At Ravello, we believe we are well positioned to change the game in the hybrid cloud market with the industry-first Cloud Application Hypervisor.


VMblog:  What was your thought process like in creating the Cloud Application Hypervisor?

Schnaider:  Today enterprises can't use the cloud the way they want to. Ideally, enterprises would like to design their data centers for average load and rent capacity as required in the cloud. However, the cloud is a completely different environment from their data center. It has different virtualization technology, networking, storage, etc. and requires different tools, procedures and best practices. So, this notion of being able to use the cloud to spill over workloads, while appealing, is very difficult if not impossible to do today for most enterprises.

Take development and test as an example. With an ever-increasing demand for new applications and capabilities, enterprise developers face a significant shortage of resources to develop and test their applications internally. They would love to use the unlimited resources of the public cloud, but unfortunately, it's a completely different environment. So they have to re-write and re-build their applications to make it work in the cloud. Let's say they do that (and often, it's a lot of work) - but then what's the point developing and testing on something that doesn't look like the production environment back in the data center?

So, the Ravello team took a step back and envisioned a technology that would allow an enterprise to completely encapsulate an application, and its entire environment (networking, storage, etc.) so that it could run anywhere without any modifications whatsoever. We call this technology a "Cloud Application Hypervisor" and we believe that it has the potential to solve the hybrid cloud challenge.

That said, our initial focus is around enabling a brand new use case for the public and hybrid cloud. Our first service offering allows enterprise developers and Devops professionals to overcome their internal capacity constraints and use the public cloud to rapidly develop and test their on-premise applications. When they are done, they can bring it back on premise for production deployments, or continue running in the cloud. We believe this is an easy use-case for enterprises to really start leveraging the power of the public cloud.

VMblog:  How does the Cloud Application Hypervisor work?

Schnaider:  The Ravello Cloud Application Hypervisor consists of three core technology components: a new, high-performance nested hypervisor, HVX; an IO overlay; and, an application framework.

HVX is a brand new hypervisor that is built from the ground up to run in a virtual machine. With this, we can normalize application environments across any cloud without any changes. The IO overlay, full software defined network and storage, enables enterprises to describe any networking topology that their application needs, on top of any cloud. So if an enterprise used static IPs, DNS, DHCP, multicast, or any other protocol internally in their data center - it all just works in the cloud without any changes. Lastly, the application framework ties the virtual machines, networking and storage all together and makes management of applications easier.

All of these pieces come together via an easy to use SaaS that enables enterprises to start using any public cloud without changing anything in their application or processes.

VMblog:  How should a developer get started with Ravello?

Schnaider:  Developers in an enterprise can use Ravello in beta for free. They just need to go to and sign up. In a few minutes they will get an email to activate their account, and they can get started. Then they need to log in, and: 

1. upload their virtual machines;

2. draw their application, by dragging and dropping VMs onto the canvass (and optionally indicating the data flow);

3. select which cloud to deploy on and press publish.

That's it. In three easy steps, an enterprise developer can have their application running in any cloud, in no time and with no changes.

But the really interesting stuff starts now. The developer or Devops personnel can now create a blueprint of their application, and spin up as many instances as needed for development and test. Each developer and test engineer can get their own copy of the production environment for development and testing on demand. In addition, enterprises can connect Ravello to their CI system and run integration tests also on replicas of production. We believe that all this will allow development teams to find and fix issues much sooner in the cycle and will significantly streamline their application development process resulting in a much faster time-to-market.  

VMblog:  What's distinct about Ravello Systems versus other solutions on the market?

Schnaider:  Other solutions in the market adopt a management-only approach and require invasive changes to the application. That usually involves re-coding the application to make it fit into certain "templates." Even after that, it is hard to replicate environments and really use it to develop and test on replicas of production. Unlike these existing solutions, Ravello's Cloud Application Hypervisor requires no changes to the application whatsoever. Enterprises can very easily replicate their application in the cloud and then use Ravello to supercharge the application development process.

VMblog:  Is there anything more you'd like to share with VMblog readers?

Schnaider:  We are in the midst of a major shift in the way enterprises own and operate their data centers. Traditionally, enterprises owned the infrastructure and the applications running on them. As a result of the migration to public clouds, they no longer own the infrastructure. Instead, this function is being "outsourced" to the various cloud providers. This implies that enterprises need to focus on the remaining functions around the application life cycle (e.g., developing, implementing, operating and maintaining applications).

Ravello's Cloud Application Hypervisor is designed is to assist enterprises in this transformation by:
  • Focusing on the application independently from the underlying cloud infrastructure.
  • Ensuring the application, throughout its entire life cycle, can run on any cloud.
  • Creating an operating environment for the application that can adjust to load, failure and pre-defined scenarios.
  • Saving significant cloud cost by using consolidation to optimize for cost and performance.


Once again, a special thanks to Benny Schnaider for taking time out to answer a few questions for us here at VMblog.  This is very interesting, and we'll be sure to follow along and watch Ravello Systems going forward.

Published Thursday, April 04, 2013 6:35 AM by David Marshall
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