VMworld from an Open Source Perspective

VMworld is clearly the largest dedicated virtualization conference, and yet from an Open Source perspective it is slightly disappointing because the VMware ecosystem naturally attracts proprietary software vendors, and also some of the more interesting activities in Open Source are through multi-vendor foundations which do not have the same marketing budgets as vendors themselves.

Nevertheless, there are a number of key Open Source players, and some interesting smaller players, represented at VMworld.

First and foremost, of course, there is VMware itself. The core product set is commercially-licensed (with some open source elements under permissive licenses). However, in its SpringSource subsidiary, VMware has significant Open Source technology offers

  • an “enterprise ready” Apache web server (ers) ,
  • a serious play Application Server technology
    • Tomcat-based (tcServer)
    • OSGI-based (dmServer)
  • a Message Server (RabbitMQ)
  • a distributed database (GemFire – well actually that one is closed-source),
    • Application Monitoring (Hyperic)
  • Java Development Frameworks
    • Spring
    • Groovy and Grails

You don’t think of VMware as a soup-to-nuts vendor, but this is an entire application stack including development tools. If you visit the SpringSource stand, it will be interesting to understand how connected it is to the rest of the show, or is it a bit like a Russian Doll: SpringSource inside VMware inside EMC? We noticed they have a session “SpringSource: Application Infrastructure for a Virtual World”. Definitely worth attending.

Then there is Citrix, who turn up at VMware events because, of course, there couldn’t possibly be a conflict, could there? Citrix is pursuing a steady Open Source policy on the Xen and XenServer side. Through that route it has a certain amount of Open Source credibility and can engage with Open Source cloud initiatives like Open Stack, and it is seeking to both establish the industry credentials of XenServer and destabilize the VMware revenue base.

The two largest commercial Linux Vendors are also present.

Red Hat – now a KVM-only hypervisor vendor, with a new Desktop Virtualization play based on Spice which is (at least in part) competitive with VMware View. In Desktop, both VMware and Red Hat are playing catch-up with Citrix and Red Hat is far from credible at this stage. In Server, Red Hat is driving towards Red Hat on Red Hat, rather than an alien hypervisor underneath. It will be interesting to see how they have obfuscated this message to avoid confrontation on the exhibition floor.  Also worth pointing out that SpringSource competes with the top end of Red Hat’s stack – and is a formidable open source alternative.

Novell sells SuSe Enterprise Linux (SLES) as the “perfect guest” which works well on any hypervisor, and politely doesn’t often mention it has two significant supported hypervisors of its own: Xen and the recently-added KVM. Novell has a deal with VMware whenever you get SLES free with vSphere. It would be worth talking to Novell about support options and costs. Also ask if there has been any progress on flogging the company to a Private Equity house, but don’t expect an answer. The story has been rumbling for months.

Notable by its absence on the VMworld publicity is Canonical – it was there last year. Canonical distributes the Ubuntu Linux distribution and was getting close to VMware over a thin version of Ubuntu Server called JeOS which is optimized for building appliances. This still exists and is supported in the latest Ubuntu LTS (10.04), but it seems there has been a parting of the ways as the partnership with Novell has strengthened.

Cloud.com and Rackspace are a couple of vendors at VMworld that relate to our “story of the moment”, the OpenStack initiative. The dynamism of this initiative is to be contrasted with the rather sluggish progress at DMTF – who are also sponsoring VMworld – presumably with membership fees paid to them by (amongst others) VMware. Attendees should check whether DMTF is close to, or far away from Cloud.com and Rackspace in the exhibition hall, it might be a clue pointing to future alignment. Oracle (the possible power-brokers) isn’t present, but feel free to buy representatives from the three organizations a beer or two in the bar and see if anything transpires.

A couple of other Open Source vendors worth looking at are Zenoss (for management) and Likewise – an open source tool that solves the thorny problem of gluing non-MS servers into Active Directory.