If VMware’s application to join the OpenStack Foundation is approved, it could mean several things for the server virtualization kingpin.
First, it adds more weight to the argument that VMware “gets” open source. Last month, news of its acquisition of Nicira, an OpenStack contributor, showed that VMware might be more receptive to joining forces with — or at least giving lip service to — the OpenStack open-source cloud initiative. That would be a notable change since OpenStack has been seen as a counterweight to VMware in the cloud. VMware had already entered the open source fold with its Cloud Foundry PaaS but the company’s core vSphere franchise was seen as anything but open.
Reality bites VMware
To some, this move just shows that VMware — which had hoped to make vSphere the OS of the cloud — now grasps the reality that cloud data centers are not vSphere-only shops.
“I think they need to continue to find revenue opportunities up the stack, and although they want those to primarily drive vSphere workloads, they realize some of the higher level technologies, especially around PaaS and software-defined data centers, may use technology from other vendors, including technology from OpenStack. This and the Nicira relationship is what prompted the move at this time,” said Derek Collison, a former Cloud Foundry executive via email. Collison left last year to found Apcera, a somewhat stealthy PaaS startup trying to define the next-generation cloud platform.
“There were a lot of questions on how Nicira’s role in software defined networks and OpenStack would continue post purchase, and I think this is trying to help with those fears,” Collison said.
A large VMware service provider partner who requested anonymity said, VMware remains dominant in server virtualization, but is having difficulty entrenching its other products both among service providers and end-user customers. “VMware is having a hard time selling SpringSource and some of its other acquired technologies,” he said. VMware bought SpringSource three years ago to become more of a full platform provider and to better compete with Microsoft.
In his view, Spring has not made a dent in either J2EE and .NET adoption. Beyond vSphere and Cloud Foundry, VMware is hurting — people see products like vFabric Director and vCenter Operations Manager as maybe being good technology, but they’re cumbersome and hard to use, he said.
Others outside the OpenStack fold see possible conspiracy. Ignacio Llorente, program director of OpenNebula, which competes with OpenStack, has his own sets of questions that he posed via email:
Is VMware joining OpenStack for marketing or for strategic reasons? Are they going to discontinue the development of vCloud and create a new cloud manager based on OpenStack? What about the rest of the partners? Most existing OpenStack partners have their own cloud management tools (not OpenStack based) in the market … My point here is that these vendors want to make money with the cloud management layer and this conflicts with the creation of a foundation that plans to commoditize the cloud management layer … but thanks to this movement, they get the sympathy of the open-source community.
Citrix out in the cold?
OpenStack backers said this move puts Citrix at risk. In April, Citrix , which had been an OpenStack backer, surprised the foundation by backing its own more-mature CloudStack platform as an OpenStack rival. Citrix, with XenServer, is a big server virtualization rival to VMware.
The addition of VMware to the mix is a huge validation of the effort, said Randy Bias CTO and co-founder of Cloudscaling, an OpenStack Gold partner. “VMware’s embrace of OpenStack further cements the growing community as the de facto standard for building open clouds. In retrospect, it now looks like the Citrix departure from OpenStack left an opportunity for their rival to make a strategic play.”
However, he also urged caution. “Alongside the announced Nicira acquisition, VMware appears to be making bold moves; however, it remains to be seen whether they can truly embrace ‘open.’ Its infrastructure products remain largely proprietary, difficult to extend or modify, and focused on solving virtualization, not cloud problems,” Bias said.