An introduction to OpenStack and how VMware participates

OpenStack gets a lot of attention these days, extra fuelled  because of the OpenStack summit which is held  in Hong Kong at this moment. Around 3000 people are attending. Hong Kong is not chosen by incident. OpenStack has a remarkable adoption in China. Beijing has worlds highest number of Active Technical Contributors (developers making a contribution to OpenStack).  Shanghai is also ranked high.

So what is OpenStack? I have asked this myself and thought to write a small blogpost. Certainly not complete, just some observations.

OpenStack is not a hypervisor. It is an open technology and open source cloud operating system which enables Infrastructure as a Service in public or private cloud. Some say it is the Linux of the cloud. The software manages compute, networking and storage resources. Those resources can be presented by many solutions. Many commercial and open source solutions are supported.

Another definition of OpenStack is a  “Cloud Management Platform” (CMP). CMPs are a software layer that sits on top of the software infrastructure and enables a “self-service” model in which application owners can directly request and provision the compute, network, and storage resources needed to deploy their application.

Think about the same set of features which are delivered by VMware vCloud Suite.

Drivers for organizations to use OpenStack are cost savings, avoiding  vendor lock-in and open technology.

Its roots are at service provider Rackspace and at NASA who both developed OpenStack. In July 2010 OpenStack was launched.  Later it  moved to the open source community and is now managed by  OpenStack Foundation. The OpenStack Foundation promotes the development, distribution and adoption of the OpenStack cloud operating system.

A lot of companies are supporting OpenStack. HP, NetApp, VMware, Intel, AT&T, Red Hat and IBM are just a few names. Red Hat and IBM are 2 of the biggest contributors of OpenStack.

Around 5000 developers are working on OpenStack. Each 6 months a major software release is released. OpenSource is as big as development on Linux.

At the moment there are less than 200 organizations worldwide using OpenStack in production. However there are quite a few Proof of Concepts running.

OpenStack is certainly not an off the shelf product which can be installed the next-next-finish way. See it as a box full of bricks. The basic buildingblocks to build a house, but you need more than just that. For a complete house you need concrete, electrical wires, windows etc. And skills to built the house.

The same applies to Openstack. To be able to built and operate a private or public cloud organizations will need Linux, scripting and developers skills. Software like deployment tools Puppet & Chef , Cassandra etc is often used.

Some very interesting statistics on usage, markets, deployments etc can be found here.

Actually OpenStack is a developers playgarden. It delivers infrastructure resources which serves developers to do their work; creating cloud enabled, scaleable applications.

It is quite the opposite of VMware vSphere/vCloud  and Microsoft Hyper-V/System Center. Those are typically used in corporate IT/enterprise IT with non-cloud enabled applications. These platforms provide redundancy for applications. OpenStack on the other hand assumes the application provides resiliency.

OpenStack is open source software. It is open technology as it supports lots of components. Users can for example use KVM or ESXi as hypervisor, can use Windows Server 2012 as storage , can use Cisco 1000v as virtual switch etc.

Ubuntu is the most used operating system in OpenStack deployments with about 80% share. KVM is the most used hypervisor.

Software development on OpenStack is divided into several modules (or projects)  using codenames. Compute module is named Nova. Networking is named Neutron.  OpenStack Object Storage  is called Swift and OpenStack Block Storage module is called Cinder. There are also projects on for example metering and orchestration. See an overview at the Wiki page.

The image below shows all the components. It is clear there are a lot of drivers to connect to lower layers in the stack (networking, compute and storage) and API’s on top to be able for third party software to communicate with OpenStack.


OpenStack is mostly used by cloud hosting providers, research institutes, academic/education, telecommunications and large companies doing business on internet. Some examples of users are Shutterstock (stockphotos) , Concur (Business Travel & Expense Management) and Cern (European Organization for Nuclear Research). Cerns manages about 10,000 servers with OpenStack.

Some well known names in the US using Openstack  are AT&T, Cisco WebEx, Cloudera, Comcast, Dell, The Gap, HP, NASA, NTT Docomo, PayPal, Red Hat, Sprint and Verizon.

In France a couple of organizations use it. In the Netherlands CloudVPS (cloud provider)is one of the few users. Smile is another Dutch user serving website like and different PostNL initiatives on OpenStack. Internet Research Network iRN is a open source technology based network infrastructure for internet research and investigation to be used by government agencies, developed by the Dutch National Police. OpenStack is used here.

It is very remarkable that there are a lot of OpenStack users in China. Some examples of Chinese companies using  OpenStack are  iQIYI (online video), Qihoo 360 (Internet platform company) and Ctrip (travel services). See this interesting post with details on the usage and number of users. China is the number 2 of countries using OpenStack most after the US. Also India has a large user base. The main reason for the large usage in China is probably the low to zero costs for using the software.

Other examples of users are listed here. 

While the IaaS part is still work in progress, the next step is development of a Platform as a Service. In this model software developers are not responsible for managing the operating system. They just get a toolbox full of development tooling.

Ubuntu announced they are going to use the Cloud Foundry software on top of OpenStack. Cloud Foundry is an open source cloud computing Platform as a service (PaaS) software developed by VMware released under the terms of the Apache License 2.0. Cloud Foundry is part of the Pivotal Initiative, an independent entity funded by VMware and EMC.

Speaking about VMware, they are quite involved into OpenStack. Quite interesting as OpenStack could be seen as a competing solution for VMware vCloud and vSphere (seeing KVM is the default and by far mostly used hypervisor in OpenStack deployments). Is it? Actually I believe not, both products serve different markets, the pets versus the cattle applications. See this posting at for a compare.

Chcik Hollis, Chief Strategist of VMware wrote an interesting blogpost titled VMware and OpenStack: Better together.

In this blog he explains why VMware puts so much effort in OpenStack. Firstly because he believes OpenStack will become a major component in many IT-landscapes, just as Linux is today. Secondly OpenStack is certainly not an off the shelf product, ready to run. Many components are under development. By helping to integrate VMware solutions and technology like VSAN and VMFS with OpenStack customers have the option to use proven VMware technology in combination with open source.

VMware was #7 contributor to OpenStack core projects: 17 developers, 300+ commits & 3600+ code reviews

At November 5 Mirantis and VMware signed a partnership to help its customers build OpenStack private clouds on top of their vSphere virtualized servers, as an alternative to using VMware’s own vCloud option. Details in the pressrelease.


VMware also announced the release of new version of vSphere OpenStack Virtual Appliance (VOVA) based on the new OpenStack Havana release.  It is important to know and understand the vSphere OpenStack Virtual Appliance is not an official VMware product, but only a proof of concept appliance for which VMware does not provide any official technical support.

A demo video and more information on VOVA here.

VMware has a free, online lab enviroment where anyone interested in running OpenStack on top of vSphere can experience the software. This lab provides a basic overview of OpenStack and how it can be used with vSphere to allow cloud users to compute and storage resources.
To do the lab, click here.

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