UPDATED 15:50 EDT / AUGUST 30 2012

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Why VMware Is Trying to Join OpenStack

VMware logoThe news from VMworld that VMware wants to join OpenStack has likely confused many. It would be easy to argue that VMware is a competitor to OpenStack and should not be fraternizing with the enemy. Despite the misgivings those of us on the outside looking in might have, VMware seems to have a plan, one that involves joining the nearly 200 other companies that support and contribute to OpenStack.

To understand VMware’s logic, it is important to first understand what OpenStack is and is not. It is a collection or “stack” of open source tools designed to serve as the basis for cloud platform deployment. What it is not is a packaged cloud suite ready to sell and deploy like VMware’s cloud products. Instead, the many vendors that use OpenStack integrate it into their own commercial products and offer sales and support to their customers.

In that sense, one could argue that the OpenStack project itself is not in direct competition with VMware; however, those vendors using OpenStack are definitely competing with VMware and with each other. In a way, VMware’s bid to join OpenStack is an acknowledgement that its hypervisor technology is no longer the only player in the game. When OpenStack is fully prepared for commercial implementation, companies will be deploying cloud platforms using KVM and Xen virtualization in large numbers.

Instead of trying to hang on to the hope that it can survive on its virtualization offerings alone, VMware has been expanding its product vision to include the entire data center ecosystem. Its acquisitions of private cloud software company DynamicOps and open virtualization contributing company Nicira reflect that vision. Regardless of its intentions, however, VMware will have to wait at least a few months (possibly October 19) for the OpenStack board to decide if it will be allowed to join. It did not even get around to considering the bid at its meeting this Tuesday.

VMware recognizes that most customers will be interested in working, easily deployable cloud solutions rather than the brand name sticker on the bottom of their clouds. Does that mean we will see a VMware version of OpenStack? It may be too early to make predictions like that, but it is clear that VMware is willing to play any cards in its hand to keep customers happy.

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