Late To The Game, Is VMware Turning Against OpenStack Or Embracing It?

VMware faces a new reality that must have seemed like an unlikely scenario a few years ago.  The virtualization king now faces a growing community of cloud companies that are vying to win business from IT shops big and small.

The competition is becoming so pressing that the company has done something that can be seen as adding credibility to any nascent movement: They have singled out the ones that pose the largest threats. In March it was Amazon Web Services (AWS). Now it’s OpenStack, the open-source environment for building out cloud infrastructure that CEO Pat Gelsinger called out last week during an interview with Network World:

“Where is OpenStack, we believe, going to be adopted?” Gelsinger said. “We don’t see it having great success coming into the enterprise because it’s a framework for constructing clouds. People have largely adopted and have extremely large deployments of VMware and the switching costs and so on of that are not particularly effective. Where we see it being effective though are very much in cloud providers, service providers, an area where VMware hasn’t had a lot of business in the past and thus, our strategy, we believe opens a whole new market for us to go pursue.”

I did the research about what VMware is actually doing. I read posts by Gartner analysts, and the independent blogs by domain experts. Virtualized Geek had one of the coolest theories of the influencers camp. Ignore the hype — VMware has other intentions, mainly to go all in on OpenStack:

With the release of the Grizzly version of OpenStack comes and new VMware driver that allows interoperability between vCenter and OpenStack. Scott Lowe of VMware/Nicira gives a demo of OpenStack integration with a vSphere environment that includes Nicira Networking, VMware HA, DRS and vCenter. I think the video speaks for itself where VMware is headed in their relationship with OpenStack.

Something about seeing this in action further makes me suspect that VMware is “all in” OpenStack. I wouldn’t be surprised if VMware releases it’s own OpenStack package – vOpenStack if you’d like. Why not all of the other major OpenStack players have their own distributions. Why not VMware with highly integrated “add-ons” for vSphere. Ideally, it would be ways to sell more “vSphere Enterprise Plus + OpenStack” SKU.

I wanted to know if VMware’s new hybrid cloud would have a developer focus. I was curious why Gelsinger singled out OpenStack and how people viewed it in comparison to VMware, so I turned to Twitter. And of course, that’s where the squabble about VMware went down:

Ben Kepes, an advisor to enterprise and cloud services companies, said Gelsinger is protecting his customer base even if the enterprise game seems like it is a bit of an illusion:

And others seemed to agree:

Independent analyst Esteban Kolsky expressed his own doubts:

Of course, VMware’s posse came out to say that Cloud Foundry is the bomb and will be important for VMware’s hybrid cloud service as its development platform. VMware originally developed the Cloud Foundry platform as a service (PaaS) before spinning it out to create Pivotal.

Sanjay Poonen, a high-profile executive at SAP, came out excited as ever about the future of VMware, his new employer. He suggested we talk at VMworld next week. I’m down for that.

I go through this exercise of writing a blog post for a few reasons. Most of all, VMware is really late to the party, and OpenStack is pushed by developers who are building out infrastructure for both public and enterprise cloud services. It would make sense for VMware to embrace it.

Amazon Web Services has been around for seven years. VMware is doing anything it can to keep its customers from seeking it out or other more affordable services that have more to offer developers and  IT.

At this point, Gelsinger doesn’t have much of a choice but to protect his base and question OpenStack. But maybe not? Is he instead signaling deeper support for OpenStack? His customers have all kinds of options, so something has to be done before it’s really too late.

In the meantime, the market grows unabated for cloud infrastructures.

MorphLabs has developed a management console for OpenStack and has focused much of its attention on building out the Asia-Pacific market with several telecommunications customers in the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore.

These are mostly public services but it signals a shift that analysts have predicted would happen. The telcos are starting to federate with OpenStack, which is creating the opportunity to build out public services and allow businesses to have their own virtual infrastructures.

VMware’s hybrid cloud gives the company the ability to offer a more dynamic service but it does not necessarily make it the answer for how companies build out their new infrastructures. It’s certainly not looking like a cloud-aware environment meant for developers. More so, it’s something entirely different from what OpenStack is offering.

Instead, aligning with OpenStack would give the company the chance to remain a provider for the new entity that IT is becoming. That would give it a foothold as it pushes its focus on its vision of the new software-defined data center.