More mixed signals from VMware, with Mirantis OpenStack agreement

Partnership comes after VMware CEO says he doubts OpenStack will succeed in the enterprise

If you were confused about VMware’s relationship with OpenStack, don’t expect the most recent news from the company to clear things up.

This week from the OpenStack Summit in Hong Kong, VMware and Mirantis announced a partnership designed to make it easy for businesses to run Mirantis’s distribution of OpenStack alongside VMware technologies including vSphere, NSX and Virtual SAN.

frenemies_0.jpgImage credit: Flickr/Jami Dwyer
VMware and Mirantis: Frenemies?

While VMware initially disparaged OpenStack and sought instead to push its own competitive offerings, including vCloud, it has increasingly embraced OpenStack. It’s a contributor to the most recent OpenStack release, it offers a tool customers can use to try out OpenStack on vSphere and it now supports OpenStack in its management tools.

Yet, despite those outward moves, the company continues to downplay OpenStack. “We don’t see it having great success coming into the enterprise…” VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger told Network World’s Brandon Butler just a month and a half ago.

Why then, would VMware partner with Mirantis? Mirantis, after all, specializes in helping businesses -- including both service providers and enterprises -- build OpenStack clouds.

I can think of a couple of reasons. One is that VMware may be worrying that customers that want to use OpenStack will ditch its hypervisor and associated products in favor of Red Hat’s KVM, used by most OpenStack users. The arrangement with Mirantis is one way to keep customers with VMware.

It’s also worth thinking about why Mirantis would make this deal. Its executives have had choice words for VMware and like to boast about voting against VMware’s inclusion on the OpenStack Foundation board.

In its press release about the deal, Mirantis says that VMware has now demonstrated its commitment to the community with its significant code contributions to OpenStack.

That could be the reason Mirantis is embracing the company. Or, Mirantis might be hoping that VMware will be useful in helping to seed Mirantis’s OpenStack distribution. Given that so many enterprises are VMware shops, it benefits Mirantis to have its OpenStack distribution run nicely in VMware environments.

This surely isn’t the end of the VMware/OpenStack story. I’m staying tuned for the next chapter.

Read more of Nancy Gohring's "To the Cloud" blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @ngohring and on Google+. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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