It’s very tempting to compare vCloud and OpenStack. It’s also very difficult to imagine an enterprise Cloud that both would actually compete. I wanted to take some time and really think about the two solutions and give a breakdown of why comparing the two solutions head to head doesn’t work.
This isn’t about directly comparing vCloud and OpenStack Public Clouds. The drivers for a Cloud provider choosing a Cloud management platform are different from an Enterprise choosing a Cloud manager. However, choosing one over another more or less locks you into either vCloud or OpenStack Public Clouds. So, it is a consideration but we are just looking at traditional enterprise public Clouds on this post. (Hey I have to save the consultants some work)
It’s important that we take a bit of time to frame the discussion of what I consider the “typical enterprise.” This is the non-high tech enterprise. We aren’t looking at developer heavy environments such as Paypal, Netflix, etc. We are looking at the enterprise that is highly virtualized, which looking at the market means VMware, Hyper-v or KVM to a much lesser extent. So, the “typical” administrator will have strong Windows skills.
I believe I’m of the same ilk of the typical traditional VMware enterprise sysadmin. If I were to still be in the business of administering servers, I’d be a Windows expert and feel comfortable managing Linux appliances within the environment. Thinking about these traditional enterprise admins brought me to thinking about how I’d go about evaluating OpenStack and vCloud. This isn’t as simple as comparing Hyper-V to Xen. OpenStack and vCloud look to please two difference targets with the little obvious overlap.
I like the NetworkWorld article asking if OpenStack is mature enough for the Enterprise. I believe it helps set the stage for what OpenStack is and is not. Earlier, I asked the question if the Enterprise has a need for OpenStack. At the time of writing, you needed to have a different skill set than someone who would manage vCloud to evaluate OpenStack. This represents the challenges in comparing the two solutions.
The OpenStack project is a platform designed from the ground up to provide an infrastructure for software developers to build Cloud aware applications. I believe OpenStack developers views the enterprise application developer as the eventual customer. This is an important observation. With earlier versions of OpenStack, the administrator who wanted to take it for a dry run would find that they needed developer-like skill. This is a different skill set than most administrators that run Windows infrastructures. Most Linux admins wouldn’t have much trouble installing the solution. However, once you did get it installed what do you do with it? In earlier releases there wasn’t a web portal to control the environment such that exists in solutions like vCenter and System Center Operation’s Manager (SCOM).
After, getting OpenStack installed; you had all of the services running that allowed applications to leverage the virtual resources through OpenStack’s API’s. The admin had some ability to define and configure physical compute, storage and network resources for provisioning via the command line and scripts. This is foreign to the traditional Windows administrator and is a completely different approach to consuming physical resources vs. the VMware model. It’s not better or worse, it’s different. However, who are the solutions targeting when it comes to the enterprise?
Developer’s build applications and don’t manage the data center. But given the option of which solution best supports their goals for building Cloud aware applications, I believe they’d understand and prefer the OpenStack model for Cloud management. But, again they don’t run the data center.
Administrators install, configure and administer data center management tools. They usually have a different set of requirements and general interests for management software than developers. Their roles are fundamentally different and this shows from the installation experience of the solutions.
That’s why I like how OpenStack is maturing. Rackspace now offers a packaged install for OpenStack. I haven’t played around with it yet, but I plan to get it in the lab and see if the interface makes sense to a traditional Sysadmin such as I used to be.
VMware actually has the opposite problem. vCloud does a great job of provisioning physical resources similar to how we do and understand it today. vCloud wasn’t designed from the ground up to provide a different approach to infrastructure consumption. It’s a Cloud manager bolted on top of vSphere. The previous VMware management team’s strategy was to marry Cloud Foundry and vCloud to provide the rich API’s that developer’s need to build Cloud aware applications within the enterprise. However, VMware has since refocused on its core hypervisor and Data Center management software products. Cloud Foundry will continue to be a hypervisor independent solution for building Cloud applications.
I’m not a fashion guy, but I know if I buy a pair of Nike Air Jordans and a Air Jordan Jump Suit then I have a pretty good idea that I will have a matching outfit without much thought. This is vCloud and vSphere. They are more or less the same. If the end consumer is other administrators then it’s easy to design a consumption model based on provisioning virtual machines or vApps. For large organizations that have multiple system administrators that need to provision virtual machines, vCloud Director just feels comfortable. It takes more work to make developers feel the same way.
So, like most software evaluations it boils down to the business requirements and the features needed. What type of service are you trying to deliver and to what consumers of the Cloud end up being the driver. After the decision is made I think from a pure OpenStack vs. VMware becomes a much simpler comparison with one caveat; that being your Public Cloud strategy. If you have some religious, political or business driver that forces OpenStack over VMware or vice versa then, you have some work.
Either solution can be made to fit the needed use case, but you will need to customize each solution to get you to where you need to be functional. This could have been a much bigger post that looked at the actual features and more limitations of each platform. But, that’s the propose of the comments section and Twitter