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How does VMware VIO add cloud functionality to vSphere?

OpenStack makes workloads available, but most distributions are difficult to deploy. How does VIO compare to other distributions, and how does it improve vSphere?

Data centers around the world use vSphere to virtualize their workloads, but virtualization is old-school and requires an administrator to install and deploy VMs. Recently, more and more organizations have turned to the cloud to make their workloads available. To keep up with this growing trend, VMware integrates OpenStack into vSphere with VMware Integrated OpenStack.

One of the reasons VMware offers VMware VIO is that many of the company's products align with different OpenStack projects. VMware's software-defined data center (SDDC) consists of vSphere for virtualization, NSX for software-defined networking (SDN) and vSAN for virtualized storage. These just so happen to match up well with OpenStack's Nova for compute, Neutron for networking and Cinder/Glance for storage projects. With VMware VIO in the picture, it's possible for a VMware user to turn her vSphere-based SDDC into an OpenStack cloud.

OpenStack is an open source project that implements cloud functionality on top of the Linux OS. One requires skills in in different advanced Linux and OpenStack features to successfully create a Linux-based OpenStack installation -- features like virtualization, SDN and software-defined storage (SDS). It isn't easy to implement OpenStack Neutron, OpenStack Swift or Ceph, all of which contribute to OpenStack's poor enterprise adoption rates. Many companies, including Red Hat, SUSE, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Mirantis, offer their own OpenStack distributions, but these tend to come with their own levels of complexity.

Integration in vSphere Web Client

VMware VIO is not a regular OpenStack distribution. If you want to run OpenStack on top of Linux with the ability to use any underlying Linux offering as a hypervisor, SDN or SDS, VIO is not for you. VMware VIO does, however, provide seamless integration with existing VMware products. It uses preconfigured VMs that are easy to deploy on top of vSphere and enables administrators to use OpenStack features through the familiar vSphere Web Client. This adds cloud functionality to vSphere -- and not just any cloud, but OpenStack cloud, which has rapidly become a major cloud platform due to its open API.

OpenStack APIs

The openness of the OpenStack API is perhaps the biggest reason why VMware took an interest in integrating OpenStack with vSphere. OpenStack APIs are highly compatible with other cloud offerings, including Amazon Web Services. Adding this API to existing vSphere products turns VMware's traditional virtualization products into cloud offerings. This is a major improvement from the vCloud Director proprietary cloud because the OpenStack is open source and allows the user to build both private and public clouds. This integration with OpenStack also creates a major marketing opportunity for VMware because it makes vSphere products available to OpenStack users.

VMware VIO stands apart from other OpenStack distributions because it's easy to implement. This simplicity bodes well for OpenStack adoption and might even attract customers who are curious about VMware products. There's only one snag in the plan: The market still needs to discover VIO. According to an April 2017 OpenStack user survey, the vast majority of OpenStack users run either Ubuntu or Linux OpenStack distributions. As an OpenStack platform, VIO isn't on anyone's radar just yet.

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