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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.

Containers represent another major battlefield for cloud services vendors moving forward. The OpenStack community, for its part, has developed a number of service modules to run container instances on OpenStack private and hybrid clouds. And Ocata, the latest release of the platform, includes several new container management services, such as Kolla, which enables users to run the three main container orchestrators -- Docker Swarm, Kubernetes and Apache Mesos -- on OpenStack.

Meanwhile, VMware has evolved its own container strategy with Pivotal Container Service (PKS), which adds Kubernetes support to vSphere. In addition to simplifying Kubernetes deployment and management, the service integrates with Google cloud services.

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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How did you choose between VMware and OpenStack for hybrid cloud?
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The articles is a little disingenuous as it fails to note that VMware themselves have an OpenStack capability in VIO (now in version 4) This allows customers to stand up a subset of the total OpenStack universe of projects in a robust IaaS platform that is now being successfully extended into the NFV space. Citing the debate in simple terms of OpenStack vs. VMware is functionally blind in the same fashion we have seen Hyper-V pitted against VMware. The VMware product portfolio is large including elements such as vRealize Automation that can manage OpenStack and Hyper-V. So what you really mean is OpenStack vs. vSphere
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The point of the article hinges around the hybrid cloud/multi-cloud environment that is the typical IT goal. The addition of a VMware-AWS link fits this model well. I expect VMware's OpenStack interface efforts to continue, but OpenStack is, in the end, a strong alternative to VMware for management of the in-house cluster.
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