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Does it make sense to develop your own cloud automation product when you are a major contributor to an open-source cloud automation product?
VMware's vCloud Director (vCD) and the VMware Integrated OpenStack (VIO) are both cloud platform products. The product management teams at the company must be asking themselves whether developing both makes any sense. They are smart people so I suspect that they had this conversation a year ago.
Management is key in multi-tenancy
These cloud automation platforms are used by service providers. They allow service providers to build a public cloud to host workloads from multiple customers. We refer to these multi-tenant environments.
A public cloud must provide isolation between customers since the customers may be competitors. Cloud providers want to use the same pool of resource to service multiple customers. They gain economies of scale and achieve high utilization. The cloud platform must have isolation built into every layer from the networking up to the user portal. Building this segregation into a product is complex. It requires multiple management interfaces for the cloud platform. The tenant needs an interface to manage the workloads. The provider must be able to manage the entire underlying infrastructure.
Isolation is not just between different tenants but also between the tenant and the provider. The cloud provider must not be able to see inside the tenants workloads. A private cloud doesn't usually require the same degree of separation as it serves only one organization.
Both VIO and vCD are cloud automation platforms VMware develops and supports. This seems like a duplication of effort that VMware would want to avoid.
I don't think the change will actually be a push from VMware, I suspect it will be a pull from the cloud providers. Many cloud providers have multiple cloud products with different technologies, service levels and costs. Oftentimes, a provider will build its own portal to aggregate cloud products into a single marketplace. If all of the cloud products were to use a single automation platform, then the job of building the marketplace gets much simpler.
Using OpenStack as the common platform for the different cloud products could be a huge benefit for cloud providers. OpenStack supports KVM-based virtualization and bare metal compute natively. There are options to have OpenStack manage a Hyper-V based virtualization. VMware is adding vSphere to the compute platforms that can be managed by OpenStack. It might be possible to have a single OpenStack implementation managing resources from the three top virtualization platforms.
How can VMware make VIO suitable for cloud providers?
One of the first things service providers want is scale. An enterprise deployment of vSphere might have hundreds of ESXi servers and thousands of VMs. A large cloud deployment may well have thousands of hosts and tens of thousands of VMs. A single virtual appliance is never going to be the right solution to manage this scale. There must be a way to scale the appliance out and cluster it. This will also provide the availability that cloud providers need. The tenant portal of a public cloud should never go down.
Another critical part is that VMware needs to keep its OpenStack open. Historically, VMware would never integrate with anyone else's product. That seems to be changing; for example, Workspace Portal integrates with Citrix server farms. VMware must allow VIO to manage compute that isn't ESXi. Locking out OpenStack's ability to manage KVM, Hyper-V and bare metal will turn service providers and customers off the product.
What about vRealize Automation?
VMware's vRealize Automation, formerly known as vCenter Automation Center (vCAC), is also a cloud automation product but it is not designed for multi-tenant use; vRA is used to build an in-house cloud and make this cloud available to business units within an organization. The isolation required between business units is far less than what is required between tenants in a public cloud. The wider purpose of vRA is to be a broker of clouds, allowing the business unit to run some workloads on an internal cloud and others on public clouds.
I don't think it makes any sense for VMware to develop and support two cloud platforms. Embracing OpenStack as the management platform for vSphere based clouds would be a very smart move. I hope we see a great OpenStack implementation from VMware. One that is scalable and open. One that can be used for private clouds and for public clouds. Whether this comes to pass remains to be seen but I hope for an OpenStack future.
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