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Why VMware Is Embracing OpenStack

VMware is going to unusual lengths to work with open source cloud technology at the same time that it's trying to establish its own hybrid cloud service. What's going on?

The midsized and hardcore VMware customers, which rely heavily on VMware technical support, are likely to turn to the VMware-based public cloud service for hybrid operations. An OpenStack distribution gives them a private cloud operation that works with their existing VMware data centers and, for the most part, existing VMware licenses. In short, they may get something that works without great additional expense.

Larger virtualization users that have their own cloud expertise and are wary of a further commitment to VMware may turn to Amazon Web Services or other public providers and find ways to make hybrid operations work with them. Or they may find the VMware OpenStack option is attractive enough and open source-based enough to go another round with VMware.

Regardless of what type of customer is involved, VMware's OpenStack gambit risks something in exchange for holding many customers in the VMware fold. Red Hat's KVM is OpenStack's default hypervisor, and once customers are familiar with the cloud software, they may decide to get familiar with the hypervisor.

VMware's vSphere management platform has found it necessary to recognize and support Microsoft Hyper-V. But in all its OpenStack hoopla, there's not a single reference to KVM or its possible future support. Customers going down the VMware OpenStack route will risk that it will always be so, and there will be a hypervisor barrier to them working with other OpenStack clouds.

On the other hand, enterprise developers are impatient with the limitations of virtualization and eager to get to more of a DevOps approach. References to some form of DevOps kept popping up at VMworld Monday, even though they always seemed somewhere just over the horizon. Gelsinger, in his keynote, referred to a future "continuous-delivery-as-a-service," but there was no VMworld document that referred to it. When might such a service become available?

Much more concrete was VMware's newfound enthusiasm for Linux containers and Docker. VMware has previously announced that it is working with Google on the Kubernetes open source container provisioning project. It's working with Docker on enabling the Docker container formatting engine to work vSphere provisioning workflows so that Linux containers may be built and launched in VMware virtual machines. Docker and VMware will work on allowing interoperability between their products and Docker Hub, with its catalogue of open source, preconfigured container software stacks. (See more information here.)

In short, it may once have appeared that VMware's role was to consolidate legacy applications in the enterprise data center, then get left behind by a new generation of cloud applications. Instead it is pedaling furiously to catch up. Instead of doing so by itself, it's astride a bicycle built for two: VMware and whatever may be its latest open source partner.

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