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VMware recently announced two initiatives intended to promote its datacenter virtualization leadership. The first is compatibility with the Open Source Cloud framework OpenStack, and the second is a new partnership with hardware providers to build an easy-to-use, scalable, datacenter-in-a-box. Both are expected to be available soon and will enhance the functionality of the virtualization giant’s already powerful set of software tools.

VMware’s Integrated OpenStack

The Integrated OpenStack project began in 2012, when VMware purchased Nicira, a SDN  startup who was  a key contributor to the OpenStack platform. Since that purchase, VMware has become a Gold Member of the OpenStack foundation and has continued its contributions to the open source platform. VMware asserts that it is not pushing its users toward OpenStack, but addressing demand from developers who are designing applications to scale across multiple Cloud platforms. VMware representatives still say that the company’s proprietary approach is a better solution, but acknowledge that a need exists for cross-platform compatibility.

The concept is to make VMware’s virtual infrastructure tools available to organizations that are already using OpenStack. The benefits are twofold: It will permit IT managers to access their existing OpenStack framework with VMware’s tools and allow datacenters that are already using VMware’s stack to easily sync with OpenStack.

Introducing EVO:Rail

A VMware out-of-the-box datacenter has been in the works for quite a while, but it will finally be ready to enter the market in late 2014. The VMware-certified appliance has been referred to as Marvin and Project Mystic, but the final name is EVO:RAIL. The name combines “EVOlution” and the connecting RAIL used to attach the components of a datacenter rack. EVO:RAIL is a “hyper-converged infrastructure appliance” that combines VMware’s compute, networking and storage technologies:

  • vSphere/ESX
  • Virtual Switch
  • VSAN

Enlisting Powerful Partners

VMware is not approaching EVO:RAIL in isolation. The company intends to supply the software for the appliance, but insists that it is not interested in becoming a hardware designer. Instead, they have announced a number of major hardware companies that they are partnering with to build these new devices, including:

  • Dell
  • EMC
  • Fujitsu
  • NetOne

In addition to EVO:RAIL, VMware plans to test another Cloud-based datacenter referred to as EVO:RACK. It will be part of the Open Compute Project (OCP) and will use hardware components designed to OCP standards. VMware will be enlisting qualified partners with existing hardware platforms for this collaboration as well.

Redesigning an Existing Concept

The concept of a plug-and-play datacenter is not new to the industry, and competition is going to be fierce. VMware does have an advantage as a well-established virtualization company with heavy penetration into the enterprise space. Its competitors in the converged datacenter-in-a-box market are startups who have little name recognition, but have beat VMware to market by a few years. Among the companies that offer similar appliances are:

  • Nutanix
  • SimpliVity

Some of these companies entered the market using VMware’s ESX hypervisor, but have recently added support for rival virtualization platforms. Analysts see this as a move to counteract VMware’s aggressive entrance into the hardware market with its EVO:RAIL product, which, of course, focuses on ESX. Competition aside, many existing VMware customers seem excited by the prospect and welcome an enterprise player into the converged datacenter space.