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Are VMware open source projects like Lightwave a sign of future efforts?

Does VMware's latest open source offerings show the virtualization company is willing to open up to outside development?

How do you solve a problem like containers? How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?

Containerized applications present a tricky situation for the administrator who doesn't want to stifle developers -- and raise the ire of the business leaders -- but also needs to maintain control of the environment to keep some semblance of order. VMware, as the perennial provider for infrastructure management, recognized it needed to respond quickly to fill the need posed by Docker's rapidly evolving technology.

What's interesting in the recent announcements from VMware is not only is it releasing container-related offerings in the form of a Linux operating system to compete with Red Hat and an identity/access management platform, but that it is making these available as open source projects. Project Photon, the minimalist Linux operating system that serves as the platform for Docker and other container systems, and Project Lightwave, which provides a security layer for containers, are both available on VMware's GitHub repository for outside developers to help improve.

While it shouldn't be a surprise that VMware wants to expand its reach from the on-premises world into clouds humming with containers, does this foreshadow a world where the company will crack open its walled garden of products in a kind of digital perestroika? SearchVMware asked its advisory board members for their thoughts on these recent developments and what the future may hold for VMware.

Sander Van Vugt

Sander Van VugtSander Van Vugt

From what I have experienced with VMware, it has left the proprietary character a while ago. VMware is getting more done together with the open source community where it has been a significant contributor to the OpenStack Neutron project.

It hasn't been very loud about it, but VMware has been in open source for a while now. I can understand why it's telling the world about it, as it does make important contributions to developments in open source software, even if the result often is only seen as proprietary.

Click here to see Sander Van Vugt's contributor profile.

Rob Bastiaansen

Rob BastiaansenRob Bastiaansen

It's good that software companies acknowledge the existence of open source projects. And if VMware develops the projects around Photon and Lightwave together with partners that also take part in other open source projects, then that is a great direction for it to go.

But I don't think that this proves that VMware would choose an open source path for other products. And it doesn't have to. I think that proprietary software and open source software can coexist, even within one software company. Use the right tool for the job or, in this case, the right ecosystem.

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Alastair Cooke

Alastair CookeAlastair Cooke

I think that VMware has come to the realization that it is no longer the revolutionary it once was. The whole IT world has moved to virtualized infrastructure, and VMware is now the incumbent. The last 10 years saw huge upheaval in the infrastructure world. Now there is huge upheaval in how software is developed.

In the last five years, a vast amount of software has been written to support mobile and consumer applications. These applications are written to run on cloud services and use open source software. Instagram would not have been built on Oracle software. Open source software is the standard for developing Web and mobile applications. The decision to push SpringSource out to Pivotal tells us VMware plans to remain true to its infrastructure origins. VMware will not get into the arena of tools to develop software. It will provide infrastructure to run the applications. Lightwave is the first VMware product that is about this new application infrastructure. I expect to see VMware develop more infrastructure tools to manage Web applications at scale.

I hope that VMworld will bring the announcement of a version of vSphere that delivers Project Fargo -- also known as VMFork and Instant Clone. This project aims to combine the best of containers and VMs. This is how VMware makes money off open source: It makes vSphere the best place to run software in open source container platforms. I'm sure there will be plenty of customers who won't need vSphere to run containers. These customers may use the free parts that VMware releases and never buy vSphere. Giving away the container management part to these customers doesn't hurt VMware. Having them like something with VMware on the label will only help in the long run. The third leg in this story is Lattice from Pivotal's Cloud Foundry. Lattice is a tool for managing containers at scale, supporting production deployment of container-based applications. It is this spanning of the infrastructure and developer worlds that is required to get containers into enterprise organizations.

Click here to see Alastair Cooke's contributor profile.

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