VMware and Open Source: A Commitment to Innovation and Collaboration

Across all major industries, open source software is increasingly woven into the fabric of enterprise IT. It finds its way into infrastructure tools such as Docker, OpenStack, and Kubernetes. It’s also in workload delivery frameworks, management tools, and a host of open source technologies that are deeply embedded in critical functions up and down the value chain. When consumers book flights or post to Facebook, for example, they’re using open source tools whether they know it or not.

VMware and the Open Source Community

VMware has contributed to open source projects for years, including the Linux kernel, Cloud Foundry, and OpenStack. And the company remains active on the Open vSwitch project, a popular open source tool, currently under the stewardship of the Linux Foundation.

Open source has been part of VMware throughout its history, but recently the company has placed a renewed emphasis on its importance by hiring Dirk Hohndel, a well-known open source leader, to be the company’s chief open source officer. Additionally, VMware upgraded its status in the Linux Foundation to gold—a level which more accurately reflects the company’s activities, investment, and commitment to open source. Following that membership change, the Linux Foundation announced on April 18 that Dirk Hohndel is now an elected Board member.

“In the past, VMware has been active in open source software, but today we have much bigger goals and higher aspirations,” says Hohndel. “This is a long-term commitment, and it starts with becoming more active, remaining humble, and creating a positive impact on the community.”

Because It’s Free

As interest in open source software from enterprise CIOs continues to grow, Hohndel notes that addressing misconceptions is part of his role.

“I hear people say, ‘I’m doing open source software because it’s free,’ which isn’t true,” says Hohndel. “Yes, you can get free resources, but scaling to production is an expensive process requiring significant capital and expertise. With open source development, you’re often trading off capital expenditures against operational expenditures, but either way, there is a cost.” 

The way to be influential and relevant in the open source community is to make meaningful contributions that benefit everyone.

Dirk Hohndel

As companies gain expertise in open source tools, they may grow more independent and confident in making technology decisions. Rushing into open source projects, however, can prove expensive.

“I caution CIOs to be careful about ‘hot’ technologies unless they have a comprehensive plan going in. Containers are fantastic if want you want to run 12 on a single machine, but if you’re running 10,000 of them, with redundancy, over a large geographical area, it is a different problem to solve,” explains Hohndel. In another example he mentions “a customer who adopted OpenStack as a solution, assuming it would be quick and easy. The project began with three people, but after five months it ballooned to 12 full-time staff—and they still weren’t close to an internal beta.”

Innovation and Collaboration

Open source projects are, by nature, both innovative and collaborative. It’s not uncommon for companies to use open source software as a foundation and build on top of it. Red Hat software, originally built on Linux, is perhaps the best known example.

“Innovation is part of VMware’s DNA, so it’s exciting for us to engage with the open source community, not only to learn but also to contribute our expertise and create value. The way to be influential and relevant in the open source community is to make meaningful contributions that benefit everyone.”

Today, open source software plays a significant role at VMware. Like many large enterprises, the company’s products are built on hundreds of open source components. Ensuring these technologies are used in compliance with their licenses, are up to date, and integrate seamlessly with other systems is critical. The company not only uses these components, but also contributes code, becoming part of the community of innovation that keeps open source projects healthy and thriving.

“As we use these components, we are also increasingly releasing our own open source projects that other companies rely on,” says Hohndel. “This enlarges our engagement with the technologies that are transforming the enterprise data center, giving us a seat at the table when people want to discuss the IT infrastructure of the future.”

Long-term Commitment

In order for VMware to remain a key software partner for its customers, the company is committed to open source projects. Hohndel notes that this commitment is backed by senior leadership and has been well-received across the company.

“We need to engage with a broad set of perspectives about VMware and open source software. That means connecting with people where they are, whether they’re skeptical and concerned or enthusiastic and supportive,” says Hohndel. “If we do that well, we’ll provide better value to our customers and to the open source community as a whole.”

Read the press release from the Linux Foundation announcing Dirk Hohndel’s appointment to the Board of Directors.