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I’m Sorry, But Did Someone Redefine “Open” and “Interoperable” and Not Tell Me?

February 26th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

I've got a problem with the escalation of VMware's marketing abuse of the terms "open," "interoperable," and "standards."  I'm a fan of VMware, but this is getting silly.

When a vendor like VMware crafts an architecture, creates a technology platform, defines an API, gets providers to subscribe to offering it as a service and does so with the full knowledge that it REQUIRES their platform to really function, and THEN calls it "open" and "interoperable," because an API exists, it is intellectually dishonest and about as transparent as saran wrap to call that a "standard" to imply it is available regardless of platform.

We are talking about philosophically and diametrically-opposed strategies between virtualization platform players here, not minor deltas along the bumpy roadmap highway.  What's at stake is fundamentally the success or failure of these companies.  Trying to convince the world that VMware, Microsoft, Citrix, etc. are going to huddle for a group hug is, well, insulting.

This recent article in the Register espousing VMware's strategy really highlighted some of these issues as it progressed. Here's the first bit which I agree with:

There is, they fervently say, no other enterprise server and data centre virtualisation play in town. Businesses wanting to virtualise their servers inside a virtualising data centre infrastructure have to dance according to VMware's tune. Microsoft's Hyper-V music isn't ready, they say, and open source virtualisation is lagging and doesn't have enterprise credibility.

Short of the hyperbole, I'd agree with most of that.  We can easily start a religious debate here, but let's not for now.  It gets smelly where the article starts talking about vCloud which, given VMware's protectionist stance based on fair harbor tactics, amounts to nothing more (still) than a vision.  None of the providers will talk about it because they are under NDA.  We don't really know what vCloud means yet: 

Singing the vcloud API standard song is very astute. It reassures all people already on board and climbing on board the VMware bandwagon that VMware is open and not looking to lock them in. Even if Microsoft doesn't join in this standardisation effort with a whole heart, it doesn't matter so long as VMware gets enough critical mass.

How do you describe having to use VMware's platform and API as VMware "…not looking to lock them in?" Of course they are!  

To fully leverage the power of the InterCloud in this model, it really amounts to either an ALL VMware solution or settling for basic connectors for coarse-grained networked capability.

Unless you have feature-parity or true standardization at the hypervisor and management layers, it's really about interconnectivity not interoperability.  Let's be honest about this.

By having external cloud suppliers and internal cloud users believe that cloud federation through VMware's vCloud infrastructure is realistic then the two types of cloud user will bolster and reassure each other. They want it to happen and, if it does, then Hyper-V is locked out unless it plays by the VMware-driven and VMware partner-supported cloud standardisation rules, in which case MIcrosoft's cloud customers are open to competitive attack. It's unlikely to happen.

"Federation" in this context really only applies to lessening/evaporating the difference between public and private clouds, not clouds running on different platforms.  That's, um, "lock-in."

Standards are great, especially when they're yours. Now we're starting to play games.  VMware should basically just kick their competitors in the nuts and say this to us all:

"If you standardize on VMware, you get to leverage the knowledge, skills, and investment you've already made — regardless of whether you're talking public vs. private.  We will make our platforms, API's and capabilities as available as possible.  If the other vendors want to play, great.  If not, your choice as a customer will determine if that was a good decision for them or not."

Instead of dancing around trying to muscle Microsoft into playing nice (which they won't) or insulting our intelligence by handwaving that you're really interested in free love versus world domination, why don't you just call a spade a virtualized spade.

And by the way, if it weren't for Microsoft, we wouldn't have this virtualization landscape to begin with…not because of the technology contributions to virtualization, but rather because the inefficiencies of single app/OS/hardware affinity using Microsoft OS's DROVE the entire virtualization market in the first place!

Microsoft is no joke.  They will maneuver to outpace VMware. HyperV and Azure will be a significant threat to VMware in the long term, and this old Microsoft joke will come back to haunt to VMware's abuse of the words above:

Q: How many Microsoft engineers does it take to change a lightbulb?  
A: None, they just declare darkness a standard.

is it getting dimmer in here?


  1. February 26th, 2009 at 10:39 | #1

    When you are the market leader, you get to set a lot of the rules, unfortunately. While the competition's struggling to catch up, VMware can conveniently ignore some of the more inconvenient truths. Like that the real-world data center is actually heterogeneous, and does, in fact, include physical servers still.
    More here on this topic and the related to the VMworld Europe announcements: http://datacenterdialog.blogspot.com/2009/02/sorr

  2. February 27th, 2009 at 04:56 | #2

    All valid points, Hoff …
    However, we've all seen examples in our industry when (a) the need is great, and (b) there's a recognized market leader that customers go with de-facto standards. IBM mainframes come to mind, as does Microsoft Windows for that matter.
    I would argue that the need for end-to-end virtualization is great. And I'd argue that there appears to be a clear market leader.
    — Chuck

  3. February 27th, 2009 at 05:07 | #3

    Clearly I recognize VMware's market position. That's not what I am disputing. What I am annoyed with is the notion that "open" and "interoperable" and "standard" really means "if you want to be beholden to us," "if you run on our hypervisor," and "de facto by marketshare" respectively.
    VMware's clearly not the only company that does this, but they're starting to grate on their customers' nerves.
    Yes, market leaders enjoy the ability to throw their weight around, but the Cloud is fuzzy enough without polluting the definitions of these words and then hiding behind SoX/Fair Harbor statutes and not releasing details or dates on these supposed "open, interoperable standards."
    It's annoying.

  1. March 29th, 2009 at 18:19 | #1