VMware has jumped on the open standards cloud computing bandwagon, recently announcing it will join the OpenStack Foundation and contribute to the development of the open source operating system for cloud computing.
The virtualization software provider has touted its vCloud product suite as a cloud operating system, which many view as a proprietary competitor to OpenStack. But while the cloud provider community may not have anticipated VMware's move to join the OpenStack Foundation, the bid is a logical next step for VMware given recent industry events, noted Sam Barnett, directing analyst for data center and cloud at Campbell, Calif.-based Infonetics Research Inc.
VMware recently acquired software defined networking startup and OpenStack participant Nicira Networks for $1.2 billion. "I don't think VMware joining OpenStack is surprising given the Nicira acquisition -- [VMware] wants to be king of network virtualization like it rules server virtualization," Barnett said.
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The OpenStack Foundation, an open source cloud initiative that originated with NASA and VMware service provider partner Rackspace, consists of 192 member organizations ranging from traditional networking vendors to service providers that contribute to the OpenStack ecosystem. VMware has applied for Gold membership status within the OpenStack Foundation, an elite group of members that includes Cisco Systems, Dell and NetApp. VMware noted in a recent blog entry that interoperability, portability and security are the key issues with the "new era of cloud computing" that the company hopes to help address alongside other organizations and providers by joining OpenStack.
"What's most important to us as it relates to various [cloud computing] implementations -- those that currently exist and those that are still to come -- is that the [provider] interfaces work together so that true choice is possible," said Winston Bumpus, director of standards architecture for VMware in a blog post.
What will VMware bring to OpenStack?
As the cloud market evolves, many cloud software providers are conceding to market demands for more interoperability and openness. Instead of trying to compete with OpenStack, VMware will have the opportunity to contribute to the open source cloud project as a community member. But VMware's proprietary vCloud will not likely be altered by VMware's OpenStack membership status.
While it is still unknown whether VMware will provide input based on its server virtualization knowledge or newly acquired software defined networking expertise, the company has said OpenStack will serve as a vehicle to help VMware develop its focus on network virtualization, Barnett noted.
VMware's stance as a server virtualization giant will most likely give the company leverage within the OpenStack Foundation, noted Amy DeCarlo, principal analyst for security and data center services at Washington, D.C.-based Current Analysis Inc.
"[VMware] is a major heavyweight, and they are really going to have the chance to influence cloud development moving forward," she said.
VMware joining OpenStack Foundation: If you can't beat them, join them
Skepticism still exists surrounding VMware's bid to join OpenStack, which has enjoyed a great deal of positive publicity in the cloud industry.
"There is a fair amount of discussion whether [VMware] made this move for marketing or promotional reasons, but it makes sense given the moves VMware has made recently," DeCarlo said.
Whether VMware has made a strategic marketing move or not, Infonetics' Barnett believes vendors or providers must join open source organizations -- like OpenStack -- if they compete in the software defined networking and cloud computing markets.
"Each vendor approaches the consortium with a slightly different perspective," he said, noting that even organizations involved with OpenStack are still in competition with each other.
Like VMware's Nicira acquisition, the move to join OpenStack indicates the company is realizing the cloud market is a multi-vendor environment that requires collaboration and openness among vendors.
While the Nicira acquisition may have sped VMware down the path to join OpenStack, the move was bound to happen, DeCarlo said.
"VMware is looking at the ways they can drive cloud adoption by embracing the open source picture," she said, noting vendors can only push their proprietary so far. Users are expecting flexibility within their cloud environments and providers must respond with more open solutions.
"To succeed in this space, every vendor has to be flexible," she said. "The beauty of the cloud is its agility and the ability to move workloads between clouds -- without being tied to particular vendors or providers."