With VIO, VMware has stepped out of the role of project contributor to become a full-blown OpenStack vendor. It will compete with other vendors by offering tight integration with existing VMware installations and by making setup and management as painless as possible.
VMware claims three major advantages to using its OpenStack distribution. First, with VIO, OpenStack APIs can manage existing VMware installations. This arrangement goes both ways. VMware notes that OpenStack's vendor-neutral APIs can be used with VMware infrastructure, while also allowing its monitoring and management tools (such as vRealize Operations Manager) to function with OpenStack.
Advantage number two is a streamlined setup and management process, which has become the sine qua non of nearly every OpenStack vendor. In VMware's case, the setup process is handled via a 12-step wizard interface published through the VMware vSphere Web Client, alongside all the other common and familiar management tools for VMware. (Another sign that VMware wants to take the sting out of the process: VIO is distributed as a virtual appliance.)
The third advantage also echoes claims made by other OpenStack vendors -- that VIO is a "fully validated architecture," as the company puts it, and VMware is an official support contact for the product. Given that the core OpenStack product is open source and can be obtained and set up without cost, VMware offers a nod in that direction by providing VIO free for vSphere Enterprise Plus customers. However, the company plans to sell stand-alone support for VIO: "Production-level technical support for VMware Integrated OpenStack including the OpenStack open source code is optional and can be purchased separately."
One question that arose when VMware first announced VIO was whether the specific edition of OpenStack would support KVM or only VMware's hypervisors. When asked, VMware executive vice president Raghu Raghuram stated, "This is a standard OpenStack distro. You can run it on any hypervisor." That said, he added, "We do not have the skills to support it on KVM," although VMware has "a number of partners that would support KVM-based OpenStack installations." He cited HP and Mirantis, both with OpenStack distributions that theoretically compete in ease of use.
When originally announced, VMware's strategy was to offer "choice without disruption," allowing VMware customers to provision OpenStack in their organizations with minimal hassle. Clearly, part of the strategy is to capture potential defectors from the VMware camp -- those opting for OpenStack over VMware because of its lack of lock-in or because of the potential cost savings.
The fact is, today, many more operations folks know how to use the VMware stack than OpenStack, though that's slowly changing. At the least, you have to give VMware credit for providing a bridge between the two.