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VMware: OpenStack friend, foe, or frenemy?

David Marshall | Oct. 2, 2012
Some say VMware's membership spells doomsday for OpenStack, but could it instead provide a more flexible hybrid cloud environment?

If VMware intends to truly embrace OpenStack, it could mean more to the cloud community than just the Nicira virtualized networking code.  Together, VMware and OpenStack could help promote a more interoperable cloud infrastructure layer, thereby increasing the chance to reach cloud nirvana by allowing for better virtual machine mobility and portability, and giving companies the much needed capability of capacity cloud bursting from their private cloud environments to a public cloud for short-term needs.

But not everyone in the OpenStack community is ready to receive VMware with open arms. There's still a high level of distrust among some of its members -- and with good reason.  VMware hasn't always flashed its pearly whites to the community in a sign of friendship and brotherly love. Tension between these two camps may have been fueled by a blog post in April where VMware's VP of cloud services Matthew Lodge colorfully compared the open source cloud projects to the three ugly sisters in a Brothers Grimm fairytale.

Boris Renski of Mirantis, also a gold member of OpenStack, is skeptical about VMware's participation.  Renski was very public about his concerns in a recent post on the Mirantis blog site where he wrote:

Subduing OpenStack is exactly what VMware did by joining the foundation.  Every enterprise considering OpenStack that we ever encountered at Mirantis was primarily interested in OpenStack as an open alternative to proprietary VMware. ... Now, with VMware in the OpenStack foundation, every enterprise buyer will rightfully ask the question: If OpenStack is not competing with VMware, then what the hell is OpenStack?

Renski says that OpenStack and VMware are different kinds of beasts, but his opposition comes down mostly to perception of OpenStack as an alternative to VMware.  With VMware now a member of OpenStack, he believes it could drive users to competing open source cloud projects, such as the Citrix-backed CloudStack or Eucalyptus, which have no ties to the virtualization giant.

"You can't compete with OpenStack and promote it at the same time," said Renski.  "For its $200,000 annual gold member fee, VMware just elegantly subdued one of its most feared competitors and we, at the foundation board, allowed that to happen.  I fear it may have been the board's first wrong decision."

But come on, let's be honest.  Aren't the other public companies involved with OpenStack -- like Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM, and Rackspace -- also self-serving at the end of the day?  They do after all each have their own fiduciary responsibility to their respective shareholders.


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