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VMware Damns OpenStack With Faint Praise

Mitch Wagner

VMware's Guido Appenzeller says he's not down on OpenStack. But he sure talks like an OpenStack skeptic.

Despite significant investment from VMware Inc. in the open source cloud platform, Appenzeller, who is CTO for cloud and networking at the company, says the vendor sees limited adoption of OpenStack. The open source cloud software certainly has not lived up to expectations when it launched in 2010 with ambitions of killing Amazon Web Services Inc. (AWS), Appenzeller says.

"In US enterprises today, OpenStack continues to lose momentum. We're seeing it less and less," Appenzeller tells Enterprise Cloud News.

On the other hand, OpenStack is gaining traction with carriers, although some of those who try it end up moving away, Appenzeller says.

Other organizations are using OpenStack under the hood for vertically integrated products, such as telcos deploying wireless infrastructure and network functions virtualization (NFV), he says.

Happier Times
OpenStack Summit 2013. Photo by Aaron Hockley (CC BY-SA 2.0).
OpenStack Summit 2013. Photo by Aaron Hockley (CC BY-SA 2.0).

VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) supports OpenStack APIs on its proprietary vSphere virtualization platform. The company has contributed extensive code to OpenStack. And it's a corporate sponsor of the OpenStack Foundation -- which is not as big a deal as a Platinum or Gold sponsorship, but it's not nothing either.

OpenStack suffers from unrealistic initial expectations, Appenzeller says.

The initial expectation for OpenStack was that you could grab the code from an open source repository and run it yourself, like people expect to do with Linux. That doesn't work with OpenStack -- or with Linux either, for that matter, Appenzeller says.

Instead, you need to go to an OpenStack distributor, such as SuSE, Red Hat or Mirantis, to get production-ready code. "These distros are heavily modifying the standard releases. They skip releases, and change parts," Appenzeller says.

VMware sees value in OpenStack APIs, to allow a breadth of applications to run on its proprietary vSphere. "If you write to the API you can swap out components. That's one of the primary benefits," Appenzeller says. "I really like the public API."

OpenStack encounters scalability issues, particularly with the Neutron networking plugin, which needs to be replaced with a vendor implementation or something homebuilt, Appenzeller says.

And OpenStack is a lot of work. "Companies that are successful with OpenStack deployments have large and sophisticated IT teams. OpenStack success is correlated with how large and talented an IT team you have," Appenzeller.

Hyperscale companies can implement OpenStack -- for example, eBay is a big OpenStack implementation.

And enterprises will work with services providers to implement managed OpenStack clouds to have an alternative to VMware, avoiding vendor lock-in. But more of that is moving to containers and Kubernetes, Appenzeller says.

We talked with VMware before Monday, when OpenStack received a setback as Intel withdrew financial support from the OpenStack Innovation Center project, which it started with Rackspace in 2015. (See Intel Pulls Funding From OpenStack Development Group.)

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It's the latest in a series of setbacks for OpenStack. Last year, HPE sold its OpenStack assets to SuSE -- though HPE said more recently it continues to support OpenStack, and SuSE is looking forward to expanding its OpenStack commitment. And Cisco shuttered its Intercloud OpenStack-based platform for connecting enterprises to multiple cloud providers. (See HPE: We're Not Dumping OpenStack & Cloud Foundry , SUSE Getting Into Platforms and Cisco Shutting Intercloud Multi-Cloud Platform.)

This month, Rackspace published a blog post defending OpenStack's future. Calling reports of OpenStack's death "#FakeNews," the post acknowledged that the platform had unrealistic initial expectations, but said organizations willing to make the investment in making OpenStack work find it very valuable. (See Rackspace: OpenStack's Death Is #FakeNews.)

Indeed, Rackspace makes many of the same observations that Appenezeller does. The VMware man seems to see the OpenStack glass as half empty, while Rackspace sees the glass as half-full.

— Mitch Wagner Follow me on Twitter Visit my LinkedIn profile Visit my blog Friend me on Facebook Editor, Enterprise Cloud News

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