VMware is the AOL of the private cloud

This week at VMware Partner Exchange there was a nice announcement of VMware Integrated OpenStack or VIO.  VIO attempts to do what most of the developers of OpenStack have failed to do:  Make OpenStack easy to deploy and manage.  (It’s not, anybody who tells you different is trying to sell you something).  The sound bite is this:  You can leverage your investment in both skill and knowledge in existing VMware products and transition to OpenStack.  Or this:  VMware is the easy button for OpenStack.

The first statement (paraphrased by me) is worthless and the second statement (also paraphrased by me) is just a lie.  Putting OpenStack on top of ESX is actually more difficult to manage and troubleshoot than if you were to run it on native KVM.  When you use VIO you are dealing with an appliance that has its own layers of complexity as well as more dependencies that don’t really need to be there.   I’m convinced that if you want to learn open stack, you can’t use these magical tools to install them, but that you first have to go through and manually install it.  It took me a week the first time and every time I’ve done it since I run into other issues.  Each time, however, I come away with a better understanding of the core components and have even made my own automated installer for learning purposes only.  So in that sense, you are not at all leveraging  your investment in VMware and it is instead just holding you back.

I caveat that above paragraph by also saying I’m not new to Linux administration nor managing large scale systems. So I shudder to think how the person with all their Microsoft and VMware certs with little Linux experience will do with this.

The analogy is AOL.  Remember in their sunsetting days when they started offering AOL broadband?  By that time we were all too advanced and realized we didn’t need all that bloatware, nor portal in our environment.  So we cast off the shackles of AOL and started making art with their DVDs.

This is how I view VIO.  However, for those of you who have not worked with OpenStack and want to just try it out, I say go for it!  Just like I would to those who had never been on the Internet before.  But there will come a time, where if you want to move forward with it, you’ll have to learn some new skills.  This is IT after all, and if you’re not learning something new every year, you quickly become irrelevant.

There are still workloads that don’t go well with an OpenStack nor AWS model.  Exchange and SharePoint in my opinion still do great on VMware or Hyper-V.  Any time you are treating applications like pets instead of cattle, then VMware vSphere, is a great solution for you and there really isn’t a need for a self service portal.  Certainly VMware software will continue to evolve, but there are few products from them (or even other traditional enterprises and even my own company Cisco that will help you)

The State of Things

Everybody is failing at making a successful private cloud.  I used to think it was 80% and that the other 19% were just in denial, but it turns out its 95% if you believe Gartner (which I usually don’t).  Why all the failures? Is it management that doesn’t get behind it and has no vision?  Is it that the teams are too siloed? Do the engineers just lack the skill set, or are too stuck with their own pet technologies?  Probably all of these.

And it seems to be getting worse for central IT.  We had one customer (Central IT in famous University) where we asked them what projects they were working on this year.  “What’s in your budget?  What do you guys want to do this year?”  He responded by telling us that his budget was cut to basically 0 and they are in maintenance mode.  Instead the lines of business have all gone to public clouds.  Our customer in Central IT is now just supporting file shares and legacy systems.  This is the future for most of central IT unless they evolve.

You’ll notice that there isn’t “The Private Cloud solution” for those that wish to serve their constituents like AWS can serve their customers.  Every legacy IT shop offers one, but its not selling off the shelves.  Cisco has UCS Director that tries to do it, HP has their tool, VMware has vCAC or whatever its called now… But OpenStack is the only one that is universally both hailed and derided.  OpenStack is the solution central IT would love to love, but can’t because its too X, where X = (immature, difficult, geeky, esoteric, complicated,…)

OpenStack is the solution central IT would love to love, but can’t because its too X, where X = (immature, difficult, geeky, esoteric, complicated,…)


The economics still show (too lazy to find link, exercise left to the user) that hosting your own private cloud is cheaper if you can do it.  There was one person I met a the last Ansible meetup who told us his start up company that had no shipping product, nor users was running a $20,000 AWS bill every month!  The case for moving to a public cloud isn’t to save cost, as my good friend tells me, its to become more competitive.  Its to move faster and get products out and make more money.  Plus, nobody trusts that their central IT can even deliver it and keep it running.

Well I hate to be all negative and doom and gloom.  So I’d like to propose a possible solution.  Its called MetaCloud, but was recently rebranded Cisco OpenStack Private Cloud.  I think we’ll be hearing a lot more about this offering this year as more enterprises embrace it.  Check it out and see the advantages.  Its the product at Cisco I am most excited about.  MetaCloud allows central IT to focus on services to their customers:  Database as a service, Load Balancing as a service, common app as a service, etc.  That is the new role of Central IT.  Providing higher level services instead of just infrastructure.

To conclude, I’d like to encourage central IT people to try out VIO as a way to test OpenStack, much like I would have encouraged people who wanted to get on the Internet for the first time to do a 60 day trial with their AOL disk they got in the mail.  But keep in mind that just having OpenStack deployed is not going to keep your customers from fleeing your firewall and going into public cloud services.  If you want to keep users, the real value IT needs to do is deliver higher level services.  Which services?  Take a look at the things you can get from AWS for examples, because that’s who you’re competing against.