VMworld 2012: VMware joins OpenStack

In Open Source it’s impossible to keep a secret (and in any case Anti-Trust laws make it very risky). And despite the imminence of VMworld, the governance processes of OpenStack run to their own timetable, so some interesting news about VMWare was made public on Sunday 26th August – the day before VMWorld – that VMware joins OpenStack.

The Agenda for the OpenStack Board meeting of 28th August was published and VMware has applied to join OpenStack as a  “Gold Member” – with membership dues of around 0.025% of revenues.  At this level of commitment, which won’t break the bank, VMware doesn’t get board membership (although Gold Members as a class do get the right to elect members) and isn’t committed to providing administrative support to the foundation. However, the commitment is real.  The actual membership agreement doesn’t seem to be published (perhaps it should be) but the governance model requires that Corporate strategy be aligned with the OpenStack Mission. It’s hard to see exactly how this can be achieved without some changes to the way vCloud and vSphere are positioned

There is an outside chance that VMware’s application for membership will be rejected on Tuesday, but that has to be an outside chance. I am absolutely clear that the key players on the Board will have been lined up behind the application. Nobody will want to give VMware a gratuitous kicking in the middle of VMworld – there would be no way back from that and it would put off other possible members.  So stand by for an announcement at VMworld of a unanimous vote to admit VMware.

What does this mean?  It is interesting that the membership application at OpenStack is entirely devoid of any product or technical commitments (most Open Source foundations requires some more specific commitment of support and/or product), so we are left to speculate.

One possible outcome is that we see a significant de-bundling of the vCloud/vSphere platform, with the management layers in vCloud being discarded in favour of those of OpenStack, and the value point retained at the vSphere level.

There have been a couple of relevant posts.  First, we had a long discussion about the role of vSphere in Public IaaS, with lots of views expressed. Interestingly we generally had OpenStack in opposition to VMware and the bulk of opinion didn’t predict that VMware would start building bridges at this stage, and we certainly didn’t take the view that VMware could maintain the value layer at the vSphere layer whilst commoditizing the cloud layer – much of that discussion was about the problem that vSphere was too expensive.

I did, however, make a point that PaaS (where it stands to win) is potentially more important to VMware than IaaS (where it has already lost), and I have been making the point that Cloud Foundry needs an Open Source foundation as a home, and a natural place would be OpenStack. That said this current level of commitment by VMware isn’t adequate to provide the leverage it would require to maintain Cloud Foundry as a project within OpenStack.  It may be a precursor, but expect a more protracted period of negotiation and engagement and an elevation to Platinum Membership before any such announcement.

It also adds interesting context to the other announcements at VMworld, particularly our post VMworld 2012: VMware Launches the vCloud Suite. Whilst the OpenStack announcement suggests a de-lamination of vSphere (replacing vCloud with OpenStack), the vCloud suite suggests much tighter bundling of vSphere and vCloud. Could it be that VMware is riding two horses or (and I hesitate to suggest this of such a strategically-savvy company) doesn’t really know what it is doing?



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