VMware & OpenStack Differences in Technology & Philosophy: Q&A with Boris Renski of Mirantis
VSM: Why is this topic of comparing VMware and OpenStack so relevant today?
BR: When I meet people at conferences like OSCON, Structure, CloudConnect, and others, there’s one question I’m hearing more frequently: “we are currently using VMware, but it is too expensive… tell me how OpenStack can help.”
I’m not sure if they think of OpenStack and VMware as two concrete products competing in the same market or if they are referring to a specific OpenStack project and a specific VMware product where the comparison may be more relevant. But, we can look at VMware and OpenStack side-by-side and gain some understanding of how OpenStack can be the right solution in many instances
VSM: What does it mean when people say they are ‘using’ VMware?
BR: Very few people have a global understanding of the product portfolios offered by VMware and the large infrastructure players like IBM, Oracle, and others. Sometimes, not even the sales people at these companies fully grasp all of their employer’s own products. So, trying to see the differences between VMware and OpenStack first requires some understanding of the VMware portfolio.
VMware has a vast portfolio of offerings, ranging from consumer-focused solutions all the way through to the enterprise. All VMWare offerings can be generally split into four categories, sorted in layers, up from proximity to bare metal.
Layer 1: ESXi hypervisor is a bare metal hypervisor, like Citrix XenServer. This is VMware’s loss leader; VMware gives it out for free, while making most of its revenue on augmenting ESXi functionality with vSphere bundles.
Layer 2: vSphere is the majority of VMware’s business today (and as much as 90% in 2010). vSphere is essentially a commercial offering of ESXi, which includes the hypervisor plus a bunch of cool enterprise stuff, such as tools for live migration, advanced security, network and storage I/O control. vSphere is offered in three bundles, each with a progressively broader set of features and software licenses meant to support a larger pool of hardware resources.
Layer 3: vCenter, with the basic foundation block being vCenter Server, a centralized orchestrator / control dashboard of vSphere environments deployed across many nodes. Everyone running vCenter must also purchase some vSphere bundle. In addition to vCenter Server, VMware offers vCenter plug-in modules such as Recovery Manager (to backup and restore VMs on the fly), Lab Manager (to manage DevOps environments), Chargeback (compute and storage metering with chargeback policies), etc.
Layer 4: vCloud Director is used if you want to take your VMware-based virtualized datacenter and turn it into an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)-like service. Key features include externally facing self-service functions such as an infrastructure services catalog, billing, and more.