VMware extends support for ESX hypervisor in OpenStack

VMware says it wants OpenStack customers to use vSphere

Continuing its commitment to the OpenStack project and its newfound vision to support multiple types of cloud platforms, VMware announced support for its ESX hypervisor in OpenStack Wednesday.

VMware has been embracing OpenStack more and more tightly over the past few months. First, it purchased Nicira, which is a heavy contributor to OpenStack's Quantum virtual networking project, then immediately after that deal closed, the company applied to become a member of the OpenStack Foundation, to the chagrin of some OpenStack backers.

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One of the biggest questions since then has been how VMware will contribute to the OpenStack code beyond Nicira's work. Today, that answer became clearer when CTO Steve Herrod announced a compute driver within OpenStack that would support vSphere, VMware virtualization software that runs its ESX hypervisor.

In addition to cementing VMware's support for OpenStack, it also serves as a boost for the OpenStack code, which has focused hypervisor support on KVM and Xen hypervisors, with increased backing for Microsoft's Hyper-V.

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To some, VMware beefing up support for ESX is a natural evolution of the company's OpenStack efforts. "It almost would have been surprising if they hadn't announced this," says IDC analyst Gary Chen. "If VMware wants to be a true foundation member, it really needed to do this."

VMware is treading a delicate line though, he notes. OpenStack, in some respects, represents competition for VMware.

OpenStack is already being used by some big-name public cloud providers -- such as Rackspace and HP -- to launch public cloud services. That puts it in direct competition with VMware's vCloud Director.

A variety of other OpenStack companies, such as Piston Cloud Computing, CloudScaling and even Canonical and Red Hat are packaging OpenStack code as a private cloud management platform that could represent competition for VMware's vSphere product line.

Chen says VMware wants to be able to support customers who are using non-VMware products, as evidenced by the company's purchase of DynamicOps, which allows users to manage heterogeneous workloads. The company integrated that technology into its offering in recent weeks.

But Chen doesn't expect VMware to be pushing customers to use OpenStack, VMware is more just supporting customers who've decided to use the open source code.

More complete support for ESX has been a desire for OpenStack customers, says Joshua McKentry of Piston Cloud. Now that VMware has extended initial support of vSphere in OpenStack, he expects there to be further integrations with the code. Herrod points out that the integration so far is around OpenStack supporting the ESX hypervisor, but not allowing vSphere to run OpenStack clouds.

VMware is in a way "sheathing the sword," after earlier comments from the company in which its cloud director Mathew Lodge equated OpenStack and other open source platforms as the "ugly sisters."

In addition to announcing the ESX support, Herrod also ran through VMware's other involvements in OpenStack, including Nicira's work in the virtual networking Quantum project, and the effort of integrating its Cloud Foundry platform as a service into OpenStack, which it has partnered with Piston Cloud on. VMware's RabbitMQ, an open source middleware-type application deployment project, is also used heavily within the OpenStack community, Herrod notes.

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

This story, "VMware extends support for ESX hypervisor in OpenStack" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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