Data Centers

VMware's OpenStack distro closes support gap but introduces infrastructure questions

VMware Integrated OpenStack simplifies installation and management of the open source cloud management platform. But are VMware's efforts enough to consider OpenStack as an option?

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Image: VMware

I've been calling for traditional enterprise vendors such as VMware to make OpenStack more digestible to enterprise customers for a couple of years. VMware's latest offering turns this request into reality.

VMware has released its own OpenStack distribution called VMware Integrated OpenStack (VIO). In a recent blog post, VMware Senior Consultant Juan Manuel Rey captures both the technical details of the distribution and screen shots of deploying VIO. It appears that the new release makes deploying OpenStack in a vSphere environment relatively painless.

The target customer for VIO

VIO is targeted for customers who want to leverage a heavy investment in the vSphere ecosystem. Data center managers are not only concerned with their software investment but also their operations overhead as well.

Investing in a traditional OpenStack deployment typically means embracing KVM as the hypervisor. Organizations lose VMware-specific features such as Distributed Resource Scheduling (DRS), which provides the ability to dynamically live migrate virtual machines as demand shifts within the physical environment. Implementing an operations model in which this feature isn't available presents a challenge.

DRS isn't an isolated example — users leveraging Storage DRS, which performs dynamic reallocation of storage based on performance, would face similar challenges.

VMware is a major contributor to several OpenStack projects. Prior to VIO, VMware customers could leverage existing OpenStack plug-ins and drivers to run OpenStack atop of vSphere; however, support has been a major issue. Since the majority of OpenStack implementations have been on KVM, there's limited availability for commercial support for OpenStack running atop of vSphere. VIO fills this gap in support.

Hybrid licensing and support

VMware's licensing and support is a twist on the traditional open source software licensing model. Open source software companies commonly give away the software and charge for support.

VMware makes VIO available to any customer running the highest levels of vSphere licensing and charges for support. I reached out to VMware to determine if VIO is available at cost to lower levels of licensing, but I haven't received a response at the time of this writing; if I hear from VMware, I'll provide their response in this article's discussion.

VMware seems to be targeting midsize to large customers with VIO. In addition to the highest level of vSphere licensing, support is $200 per CPU with a 50 CPU minimum; this would roughly equate to a cluster with a minimum of 25 nodes available to OpenStack.

Ongoing management

VMware has simplified the installation and integration with vSphere and offered a support channel. The remaining questions around VIO involve the manageability of OpenStack. Underneath the VMware wrapper is a full standard OpenStack distribution. Organizations still need to understand the requirements of their OpenStack deployment and where the standard project falls short. The result may be that development resources still need to be dedicated to extending the capability of VIO.

The license and support costs are still a subset of the costs and effort to deploy VIO. I compare VIO to VMware's vRealize Automation. While vRealize may be simple to deploy, it takes a great deal of planning and possibly professional services to avoid becoming shelf-ware.

If you are a VMware customer looking to deploy OpenStack, it would be wise to explore additional options for OpenStack. Providers such as Platform9 have begun to embrace support of vSphere.

Does VMware releasing and supporting an OpenStack distribution influence your decision to use OpenStack within your vSphere environment? Let us know in the comments.

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About Keith Townsend

Keith Townsend is a technology management consultant with more than 15 years of related experience designing, implementing, and managing data center technologies. His areas of expertise include virtualization, networking, and storage solutions for Fo...

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