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OpenStack is a collaborative effort from software and hardware industry leaders to establish interoperability between...
cloud services and to provide data centers with inroads to public and private cloud deployment. Although this approach to cloud deployment might seem ideal, OpenStack has been plagued by complaints of complexity since its inception -- and for good reason. OpenStack is tedious to set up and requires the attention of a seasoned Linux administrator with prior cloud experience.
VMware took these complaints to heart when developing its own OpenStack distribution, VMware Integrated OpenStack (VIO). VIO allows an administrator to deploy and manage a private cloud on vSphere infrastructure. Although it's possible to deploy OpenStack on top of vSphere without it, VIO makes things easier because it eliminates the standard manual OpenStack installation procedure. Instead, VIO uses a wizard through which you can deploy VIO as a vApp appliance in your current vCenter infrastructure.
If your business only uses virtualization, vSphere is probably sufficient to meet your needs, as it provides a flexible platform that enables companies to deploy enterprise-level products. However, if you'd like a self-service portal to deploy instances to the cloud, VIO might be your best bet. Read these tips to learn more about VMware Integrated OpenStack features, what it costs and the benefits it can bring.
VIO vs. other OpenStack-based alternatives
The free, standard version of OpenStack is a perfectly suitable option for a smaller organization looking to save some coin. However, a larger organization is more likely to look into purchasing a supported version of OpenStack -- but which one? A number of vendors have supported versions of OpenStack on the market, including VMware, Mirantis and Rackspace. The cost of VMware licensing and the risk of vendor lock-in might lead some potential customers to look into popular alternatives to VIO, but these alternatives lack the benefits that a VMware installation provides, including consistent, supported updates and the ability to easily bridge the gap between legacy and cloud-native applications.
VIO takes the OpenStack framework and applies it to existing infrastructure and tools. VIO also directly supplies developers with OpenStack APIs to access VMware virtualized infrastructure, which makes it easier to integrate with other third-party products. Unlike other OpenStack-based offerings, which require a high level of expertise to deploy and configure, VIO is accessible to just about anyone with a working knowledge of vSphere. VIO also comes with built-in support for the ESXi hypervisor. Although this support comes at a cost, some companies have found that they actually saved on the total cost of running a private cloud with VIO rather than switching to a different platform. Ultimately, since it runs on top of vSphere rather than Linux, VIO is a pragmatic choice for any customer already familiar with vSphere who wants the maturity of a VMware environment and the heterogeneous support of OpenStack.
VIO boosts scalability -- for a price
The central premise of VIO is that it combines the logical advantages of a VMware-built software-defined data center (SDDC) with the ability to build an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) cloud offering. This means that a VIO customer can quickly and easily scale an SDDC built with vSphere software up to the IaaS cloud. Other VMware Integrated OpenStack features help make a cloud administrator's life easier, such as seamless integration with the vRealize Suite, which allows for efficient cloud operation monitoring.
VMware Integrated OpenStack features don't come cheap, and a potential VIO customer might reasonably wonder whether the benefits justify the expense. Rather than purchase an individual license, customers must purchase a vSphere Enterprise Plus license to gain access to VIO. Note that this does not include support -- if you decide you want support for VIO, you'll have to purchase it on a per-CPU basis at an additional cost. For this reason, VIO might be better suited for larger corporations that already intend to purchase a supported version of OpenStack rather than use free OpenStack software.
VMware still a consistent OpenStack contributor
Although OpenStack has never been at the top of VMware's priority list, VMware continues to regularly release new versions of VIO -- now in version 4.0 -- and contribute to OpenStack projects. The OpenStack Foundation created the Stackalytics tool as a way to track which companies contribute to projects in each version of OpenStack, as well as how much each company contributes by way of code reviews. Perhaps unsurprisingly, VMware's most significant contributions are to Nova compute and Neutron networking, which correlate directly to vSphere and NSX.
OpenStack and VMware team up for networking
Software-defined networking (SDN) is important in a cloud environment because it allows you to create logical broadcast domains of a physical infrastructure. The OpenStack Neutron networking component takes SDN a step further with a pluggable architecture that allows for more seamless integration. It's worth noting that the standard Neutron plug-in is only available for Linux hypervisors. If you want to take full advantage of Neutron in a vSphere environment, you'll have to use the NSX plug-in for Neutron networking in VIO.
As mentioned before, VMware is a major code contributor to the Neutron project, and a significant portion of that contribution goes into this NSX plug-in. Potential users have the option to run NSX in either VIO environments or in multi-hypervisor OpenStack environments. The NSX plug-in integrates well in the SDDC and provides the administrator with advanced management options and robust tools, making it an excellent replacement for standard Neutron networking.
New VMware Integrated OpenStack features drive up cost
There's a new version of VIO on the market and with it comes an inflated price tag. Based on the OpenStack Ocata release, VIO 4.0 introduces support for Kubernetes, additional support for vRealize Automation and new features such as live VM resizing, vCenter High Availability, storage volume deletion and more. Although many users are pleased with the improvements made in version 4.0, claiming they make OpenStack more accessible from a usability perspective, some find the cost prohibitive. In this new version, VIO will cost $995 per CPU for new customers and $495 per CPU as an add-on for vRealize Suite customers. This is a big change for VIO, which previously had no licensing fee, and could present a challenge for some customers. However, according to some experts, the convenience and capabilities this new version of VIO provide absolutely justify the cost.
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