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Why OpenStack users might be interested in VMware Integrated OpenStack

With the new VMware Integrated OpenStack, users can easily scale SDDCs up to the IaaS cloud -- but for major companies, is increased scalability worth the cost?

OpenStack is an open source format, based on the Apache Software Foundation, which offers different components to build an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) cloud offering. OpenStack is a type of IaaS cloud computing, but building an OpenStack cloud on top of a Linux distribution requires specialized skills. Because of this, many users find VMware Integrated OpenStack to be a logical choice.

VMware vSphere is the leader in data center virtualization and provides all that customers need to build a software-defined data center (SDDC). For current IT needs, though, there is usually a need to add cloud computing to the SDDC. Application developers and cloud administrators alike might be tempted to install IaaS cloud formats. To make it easier for those target cloud users, VMware has created VMware Integrated OpenStack.

VMware Integrated OpenStack builds on top of a vSphere infrastructure. It is even included for free in the vSphere Plus licenses, although support is not included for free. By using VIO, a current SDDC built using vSphere software can easily be scaled up to an IaaS cloud. By offering VIO, VMware adds an OpenStack format that is not only easy to integrate, but also offers additional features which are of interest for cloud administrators.

One of the most important features absent from OpenStack is the option to monitor cloud operations in a way that allows admins to predict future problems and take preventative measures against them. VIO offers seamless integration with the VMware vRealize products, which allow administrators to manage OpenStack in an efficient way.

By releasing VIO, VMware has tried to meet some of the challenges admins face in a typical Linux-based OpenStack environment. These include the high speed with which new developments are introduced. OpenStack is updated every six months, which makes it difficult to implement the software in a corporate environment.

VMware doesn't try to follow all of the most recent developments in OpenStack, but has based version 1.0 of VIO on the OpenStack Icehouse, which was released in April 2014. By doing so, VMware allows administrators with current knowledge of vSphere formats to simultaneously integrate OpenStack in their environment and remove the challenge to upgrade the software every six months.

Expensive VMware software or free OpenStack software?

VMware Integrated OpenStack may seem like the obvious choice for VMware customers who want to use the open cloud-style application programming interface that OpenStack offers, as they can get it for free. However, it doesn't seem to be the best option for companies that are not currently using VMware products. VIO is only included with a vSphere Enterprise Plus license, which is not available for free. Companies that want to implement OpenStack to support their core business generally don't implement a free and open version of OpenStack. Corporate customers are typically looking for a supported version of OpenStack, which means they are going to pay for it anyway.

For the corporate customer that needs corporate support and a stable, consistent product, VIO is comparable to other vendors offering an OpenStack distribution -- made for use in a supported enterprise environment --- such as Red Hat OpenStack, HP OpenStack, SUSE OpenStack Cloud or Mirantis OpenStack. When comparing the prices of these formats against the VMware offering, the differences become less noticeable, and VIO may be a viable option.

The only reason why corporate customers might want to hold off on purchasing VIO is that the current 1.0 release only supports VMware ESXi as a hypervisor. Many OpenStack implementations are built on top of large cloud environments, where support for multiple hypervisors might be a requirement. That is not currently included in VIO and it's unclear if it will be any time soon.

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