VMware’s membership to the OpenStack Project makes more sense as I think about it. I wrote an earlier piece on how vCloud Director vs. OpenStack isn’t a debate. Similarly, I don’t believe VMware and OpenStack compete at the datacenter layer. An argument could be made that before VMware and EMC spun off Pivotal that raw OpenStack and VMware were direct competitors but since the spinoff I think VMware really does want OpenStack to succeed.

My primary argument, OpenStack is doing for VMware what open source is designed to do at its core; which is to give users a jump start on the product and services based on the core distribution. Rackspace, Dell and HP are all Cloud providers that were looking for a Cloud OS and have used OpenStack to give that jump start. On the other side, players like IBM will take every consulting opportunity as a result of the OpenStack projects. On the surface, VMware doesn’t seem to benefit from either of these use cases.

VMware’s hybrid Cloud service is built on vCloud Director and I doubt very seriously if any one looking to implement an OpenStack Cloud will be calling VMware Professional Services any time soon. So what’s the play? You don’t have to look any further than their investments and divestitures. They brought a virtual network company, created a software based SAN and got rid of their PaaS solutions. OpenStack needs virtual network (and storage for that matter) and the NSX team seems just as committed to OpenStack as they had prior to the acquisition. Couple this with VSAN and it gives strength to my guess that VMware wants to use a relatively cheap investment in OpenStack to further their Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) strategy.

The SDDC has been a unicorn of sorts – an architecture that can’t be achieved because of the lack of open standards to control the network and storage stacks. vCloud Director isn’t going to get SDDC on its own merits. VMware needs the cooperation of the industry to produce the open standards needed. However, storage and network vendors need incentive and a sense of control before they let a software layer control their hardware solutions. This is where OpenStack comes into play.

OpenStack is a train that once it achieved full speed wasn’t going to stop for any single vendor. Even Cisco isn’t able to hold out. They’ve built support for OpenStack in many of their products including ACI. As an example of the pressure, Google and Facebook have built their own switches showing the capability of SDDC. So, even the powerful Cisco has to have a strategy for the Cloud enabled data center which includes support for solutions for management. Seeing that VMware and Cisco are looking more like competitors each day, why not an open source project such as OpenStack?

With all of the major hardware vendors on-board, why not strike and try to leverage your dominate virtualization position? VMware has done this by embracing OpenStack. They have continued to improve virtual network support and have added deep integration with ESXi and vCenter. After all, why do all of the work of developing a true Cloud wrapper for vSphere when you can leverage the work of your competitors. For enterprises that are looking just to extend their vSphere infrastructure with self-service you have vCloud Director. When you want to take the step of building a SDDC that can be extended to hybrid Cloud providers and gives AWS type functionality and API’s then you have “OpenStack Powered by VMware” which would be their NSX, VSAN and vSphere running OpenStack.

OpenStack is exactly what VMware needed to fight their biggest threat – Amazon’s AWS.

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