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There's little debating that VMware's influence in the data center has been matched by few other companies. With vSphere, it has been the leading server virtualization market for many years. But now that VMware is moving into new areas, namely cloud computing, things aren't quite so clear-cut.
In the cloud world, the big news of the last couple of years has been OpenStack. OpenStack is an open source cloud initiative that is developed by many leaders in the software and hardware industry. Because every significant player on the IT market seems to be involved with it, OpenStack has become the go-to cloud platform. It can be used to deploy public and private clouds.
OpenStack retooled to be more inclusive
Because so many of the major players in IT -- HP, IBM and Intel to name a few -- are involved, OpenStack is being developed with an eye toward widespread compatibility. Where it once began as a joint initiative by NASA and Rackspace and was oriented towards Linux virtualization only, OpenStack has now developed into an infrastructure as a service cloud that can deploy instances on any type of hypervisor, including VMware's ESXi and Windows Hyper-V.
OpenStack does have one problem: It is complicated to set up. It takes a skilled Linux administrator with significant cloud experience easily a week or more to go through the approximately 80-page installation guide to stand up a cloud environment. It is a laborious process which requires many commands to be executed in a manual deployment.
VMware sees opportunity
Due to the popularity of OpenStack, many of VMware's customers also have developed an interest in using OpenStack. VMware has responded with the release of VMware Integrated OpenStack (VIO). The primary purpose of VIO is to develop a cloud solution that works on top of a vSphere infrastructure. Currently, VIO only works in vSphere and does not support other hypervisors. Customers need vSphere Enterprise Plus to deploy VIO; for customers with that license, VIO is available as a free add-on.
The release of VIO is interesting since it was already possible to deploy OpenStack on top of VMware vSphere, albeit with the cumbersome manual procedure. VIO uses a wizard to walk administrators through the setup. All the OpenStack components can be tied together without the need to type in the many long commands that are required in the manual setup procedure.
After deploying VIO, you will have a full cloud platform with the typical OpenStack components -- such as Nova (for compute) and Neutron (for networking) -- installed on Ubuntu servers. VIO is OpenStack, so it has all the same components. All the configurations that are entered by using the wizard interface end up in the configuration files on Linux. Those settings can be further adjusted, if needed.
Setting up networking
Since the Nicira acquisition and consequent release of the NSX network virtualization product, VMware has been very active in the networking end of the data center. While setting up SDN is still one of the most challenging parts to OpenStack, VMware provides a wizard for NSX setup during the configuration process. But SDN is challenging by nature and requires serious insight in what needs to be accomplished by using it.
Putting workloads into the cloud
With the daunting task of setting up OpenStack reduced with VIO, it shows VMware wants to stand out in the current landscape of OpenStack providers. If you are on vSphere and want to extend the virtualization platform to a cloud, VIO should be worth considering now that it has made it less difficult to get OpenStack off the ground.
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