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VMware vs. OpenStack debate takes a turn toward hybrid cloud

As VMware's hybrid cloud strategy advances, OpenStack continues to build out a rich portfolio of services, which revives comparisons between the two platforms.

As hybrid cloud adoption grows, the ongoing VMware vs. OpenStack private cloud debate is sure to heat up.

VMware -- undoubtedly the ruler of data center virtualization -- entered the cloud computing game a bit late. As a result, some enterprises chose -- and continue to choose -- OpenStack as the foundation for their private clouds. But while the deployment of OpenStack sandboxes is widespread, the conversion to production environments has been slow. Issues of scale, ease of use and completeness of features have hindered OpenStack's entry into the wider market.

These OpenStack delays have given VMware a second bite at the cloud market. Rather than create yet another public cloud to compete with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Microsoft Azure, VMware now focuses on what it does best: data center virtualization. And, with a large pool of admins already trained on its technology, along with the years of confidence it's gained in many IT shops, VMware has put a new spin on its cloud strategy.

AWS tips the VMware vs. OpenStack scale

Having seen vCloud Air fizzle, VMware now takes a different -- and more hybrid -- approach to the cloud. Specifically, VMware's answer is to export its vSphere virtual clusters to the public cloud. The vendor hopes that businesses who already know how to use vSphere efficiently will choose to run it in a public cloud to move workloads more easily between in-house and off premises.

The VMware and AWS partnership means that the largest installed base of in-house virtualized clusters now has extension into the largest public cloud.

VMware Cloud on AWS is aimed at this exact kind of deployment and makes it easier for companies with heavy VMware investments to implement hybrid cloud. It also addresses issues like data compatibility and mobility -- things that OpenStack aspires to fix.

The VMware and AWS partnership means that the largest installed base of in-house virtualized clusters now has extension into the largest public cloud. This partnership strengthens the VMware hybrid cloud story compared to OpenStack. Microsoft's launch of Azure Stack, as its own answer to hybrid cloud, will also put new pressure on OpenStack.

OpenStack services portfolio remains strong

As the VMware vs. OpenStack debate rages on, the community around the open source platform won't give up. With a maturing core, improved deployment and scaling capabilities, as well as a growing ecosystem of services, OpenStack is more usable in the enterprise today than in the past. The breadth of OpenStack services puts the platform more on par with AWS, GCP and Azure than VMware's portfolio is likely to be. All major public cloud platforms are increasingly service-rich, with features for big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence and more, and this looks to be the long-term industry trend.

The lack of these services, including robust support for containers, is notable in VMware. The vendor's new link to AWS, which has the richest service ecosystem of all the public clouds, helps make up for this. However, many higher-end AWS services are external to the VMware on AWS platform today and will require considerable work to merge with vSphere.

OpenStack benefits strongly from being open source. Though reaching maturity can be a challenge, the addition of new service modules is easy to achieve. The OpenStack community continues to build cross-platform operability with GCP and AWS and hopes, eventually, that the technology will look more like an in-house version of those platforms.

This, however, will require AWS -- which has long espoused a public cloud-only future -- to commit to making the interoperability as tight as OpenStack aims to achieve. This factor will heavily influence the VMware vs. OpenStack debate over the years to come.

Next Steps

Who stands to win from the Amazon-VMware deal?

Is there still a business case for private cloud?

Enterprises seek IT pros with OpenStack skills

This was last published in September 2017

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