Pigs Fly And VMware Vaults Into The Top-3 OpenStack Vendors

Author

Matt Asay

December 19, 2014

OpenStack can make for strange bedfellows.

If any one vendor served as the proprietary bogeyman to motivate the creation of an open source private cloud stack, it’s VMware. For more than a decade, the virtualization giant owned the core infrastructure of Global 2000 data centers, only to have the industry fight back in 2010 with the non-profit OpenStack Foundation. As the industry rallied around open-source OpenStack, proprietary VMware looked to be reeling.

That was then. This is now.

Today VMware is emerging as a serious champion of OpenStack, pivoting quickly to prove that they were not going to be the next victim of Clayton Christensen’s “Innovator’s Dilemma.” With few customers lining up to use vCloud Director, VMware has augmented its otherwise proprietary approach with OpenStack. 

VMware also found an unlikely OpenStack champion: Mirantis, the last remaining private pure-play OpenStack vendor. Mirantis was the first OpenStack vendor to announce support for VMware’s hypervisor technology, vCenter. 

Boris Renski

Today, the two companies published a Mirantis OpenStack reference architecture for VMware vCenter Server and VMware NSX. Publicly available for download, Mirantis OpenStack lets customers deploy and control workloads that run on VMware vSphere in their VMware vCenter Server clusters within Mirantis OpenStack. 

I spoke with Boris Renski, Mirantis co-founder and CMO, and board member of the OpenStack Foundation, to understand his company’s coopetition with VMware and how he thinks the virtualization giant will fare with OpenStack customers.

ReadWriteI thought VMware was the enemy of OpenStack–the proprietary private cloud solution?

Renski: I can’t speak for VMware, but I can assure you that from our perspective as the largest standalone OpenStack vendor, we take VMware very seriously. They recognize that their sophisticated customer base wants to get more value out of their investments in VMware while also wanting the flexibility of working with alternative open source cloud solutions like OpenStack. Big companies are not going to allow a single vendor to determine their computing fate. When Pat Gelsinger, the CEO of VMware, gives a keynote address at VMworld committing the company to OpenStack support, it sends a message that they’re here to stay. 

Every infrastructure vendor does “OpenStack something” today. I separate those vendors into two buckets: ones who have a real OpenStack strategy backed by an engineering investment and ones who use OpenStack as a checkmark in their marketing story. 

The more I work with VMware, the more it becomes clear to me that VMware Integrated OpenStack is a strategic move that follows customer demand. This motivates our announcement today, where we have made it easier for VMware customers to run OpenStack alongside VMware’s solutions.

RW: The same Gelsinger who moans that , “We all lose if [applications] end up in these commodity public clouds” like Amazon Web Services and, presumably, OpenStack,” right? Let’s get real. VMware is battling at the technology level to ensure that customers continue to embrace its ESXi hypervisor technology to fight for market share.

BR: I’ll concede that, powered by the KVM hypervisor, OpenStack indirectly competes with ESXi. 

But it’s important to remember that cloud infrastructure has two very different use cases. One is the systems administrator use case. Systems administrators want to manage process, policy and security while provisioning infrastructure to their internal customers. Historically, both VMware and Red Hat designed their solutions with the systems administrator use case as their focus–VMware with vCenter and Red Hat with RHEL Virtualization.

The other is the developer use case. Developers don’t want to deal with the systems administrators or processes; they want direct, self-service access to their infrastructure. Both VMware and Red Hat are effectively using their existing “system administrator” offerings to wedge themselves into organizations to go after developers. The key difference is that VMware is a standard for at least 60% of systems administrators, whereas the RHEL Virtualization footprint in the enterprise is virtually non-existent.

RW: It makes sense that an enterprise would look to a company like Mirantis for OpenStack software and support, given that you’re a core contributor and have been selling your own OpenStack distribution into the Global 2000 market now for more than a year with some noted successes, like the $30M Ericsson deal earlier this year. From your perspective, why would an enterprise customer look to VMware for OpenStack? Wouldn’t they more likely turn to a “known” OpenStack vendor like Mirantis or Red Hat?

BR: Actually, I think VMware will overtake Red Hat in OpenStack sales in 2015. In fact, I doubt Red Hat will manage to stay in the top three in OpenStack revenues and workloads managed next year. Mirantis is seeing great customer traction, and we aim to keep the lead (grins). I predict we will be followed by HP and VMware. 

Yes, VMware. How has VMware vaulted into the top ranks so quickly? 

The main reason OpenStack is so popular is because it enables one to leverage existing infrastructure investments. For example, if you already have storage from NetApp, a load balancer from A10 and vCenter licenses, you can layer OpenStack right on top and have yourself a cloud. This works great for Mirantis because we have no ulterior infrastructure agenda. It poses a problem for vendors who have to compete with existing infrastructure investments. 

Enterprises invested a lot more in VMware infrastructure than they did in RHEL. They will have no reason to switch to “RHEL Integrated OpenStack” when it functions as a rip-and-replace of VMware with no less lock-in. VMware Integrated OpenStack will be a shoo-in.

Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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