Blog Post

Is VMware OpenStack an embrace of open source — or an attempt to extinguish it?

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

Open source–oriented developers tend to view proprietary software — and the companies that make it — with suspicion, if not outright disdain. That seems particularly true of VMware, which this week jumped into the fray with its VMware-Integrated OpenStack, now in beta and expected to be on the market in the first half of 2015.

The fact that the VMworld 2014 press release announcing the news doesn’t mention OpenStack in the headline says a lot. Critics hold that [company]VMware[/company] wants to capitalize on the interest in OpenStack without necessarily giving it a ton more credence. OpenStack, after all, launched at least in part as an open-source cloud framework by parties that didn’t want to see VMware’s server virtualization dominance carry over into cloud. When VMware joined the Openstack foundation two years ago, reaction among the OpenStack community was mixed at best. And reading between the lines, VMware itself still seems conflicted about OpenStack.

Uneasy alliance

The VMware Integrated OpenStack play is intended to portray OpenStack as something that plays nicely with VMware’s NSX software-defined networking and VSAN storage virtualization, as well as its bread-and-butter vSphere virtualization and vCenter management stack.

While VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger called VMware’s OpenStack “an easy, cost-effective way to move to OpenStack,” a reasonable person might conclude that VMware’s self-interest lies in pulling prospective OpenStack customers into VMware rather than seeing VMware customers move to OpenStack. OpenStack is seen as a less expensive solution for cloud orchestration in terms of software and support, but it still requires more hands-on blocking and tackling to get it to work.

VMWare is right that if you pay near zero for software and not a lot for support, but still need a dozen engineers to get your OpenStack private cloud running, the cost savings really don’t add up. But VMware is still seen as a higher-cost and proprietary solution.

Bringing OpenStack into the V-fold: Who benefits?

VMware’s decision to bring OpenStack into the fold and gussy it up for enterprise use is smart — it’s just really late. An array of other vendors —  [company]Red Hat[/company], [company]HP[/company], [company]IBM[/company] and others — are all dedicated to making OpenStack more easily consumable for big companies. Heck, Red Hat even hired Alessandro Perilli, who as a Gartner analyst famously pointed out how hard it was to sell OpenStack into the enterprise, to help fix that perception and recently announced an OpenStack-based software appliance to ease implementations.

OpenStack die-hards look at what VMware announced and, instead of a warm embrace, see more of a vintage Microsoft-style “embrace, extend and extinguish” strategy.

Even if that is the case, I’m not sure it matters. At this point, OpenStack is out there and has won the marketing wars in private cloud. As Battery Ventures technical fellow Adrian Cockcroft pointed out at Structure 2014, vendors from IBM to Red Hat have already co-opted the OpenStack branding.

“The marketing war for CIO mindshare has been won,” Cockcroft said. “They’ll buy anything as long as it’s called OpenStack,” he said. VMware Integrated OpenStack is just one more proof point of that.

Feature photo by Flickr user Akihito Fujii

3 Responses to “Is VMware OpenStack an embrace of open source — or an attempt to extinguish it?”

  1. There’s a lot of focus on the packaging but the most important aspect of VIO is VMware’s attempt to simplify OpenStack operations by integrating their vCloud Suite with VIO. The ability to monitor OpenStack service using vC Ops and Log insight may prove to be very attractive to VMware admins who have been tasked with managing OpenStack deployments.

  2. Jesse Proudman

    VMware is unfortunately simplifying the operational burden of OpenStack (or any complex cloud operating system). Installation is no longer the burden it once was, and those organizations that are dedicating teams of twelve engineers to their OpenStack effort are focused simply on operations of the cloud and keeping it inline with the rapid release cycle of OpenStack itself.

    Packaging is nice and packaging is a good first step, but to run cloud technology means more than packaging.

    I’ve yet to see anything from the distro vendors (including VMware and RedHat) that looks to solve these real operational issue.

    – Jesse

  3. Eamon Walsh

    Red Hat itself has suffered in a similar way early on in its journey before public acceptance and development surge rode the tide. It’d be interesting to see how OpenStack continues to dominate public/CIo consciousness now that VMWare is throwing the brand value (and hoping the past gains will help them surge on this one). As a cloud SP solution there’s much to keep an eye out for either. More features here