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Posted by James Burns on 15-Mar-2017 16:48:00

VMware cloud hosting vs open source: What's the difference?

According to Cisco, 92% of workloads will be processed by the cloud in 2020. And, if you’re reading this, the probability that you’re considering cloud hosting for your business is high, too. But before you make the move, you’ll have to decide on whether you want your cloud to run on a proprietary platform (like many VMware cloud hosting services) or an open source one.

We explore the pros and cons of some of the key factors of both in a head-to-head analysis.


Cost could quite easily be the deciding factor in your choice of hypervisor, especially as the differences in price between open source and propriety options are so pronounced.

If you’re keen on not forking out too much, there’s a good chance you’ll be more inclined to take the free, open-source route where the only direct costs incurred through your provider are as a result of the setup of the software. However, you should be aware that indirect costs can add up – especially if there’s any support or proprietary management tools you need to keep your environment ticking over. (Find out more about the hidden costs of cloud hosting here.)


The complex nature of cloud platforms like VMware or OpenStack means that if something goes wrong, you’ll want to be able to rely on support from real experts. Generally, the most popular open-source solutions have thriving online communities where it’s easy enough to get answers to your questions – which is great as long as you have the expertise to implement solutions once you find them.

(Recommended reading: IaaS migration checklist)

Bear in mind as well that the process may not be as fast and efficient as going directly to a vendor or one of their partners. (One of the reasons we use VMware is the high quality of support on offer, as well as the stacks of documentation and lively community that’s grown up around the software over its long history.)


It’s tempting to assume that a proprietary cloud hosting platform like VMware offers much better performance and stability than any open-source alternative. Historically, this has often been the case – although the likes of KVM are certainly catching up, and some would say are now on par, with their older counterparts.

That said, there’s a peace of mind that comes with using the industry standard, so VMware still narrowly wins out in our estimation.


The impact that usability has on your decision will be heavily dependent on the skills of the people already within your organisation. One of the attractions of open-source solutions is that you can modify them at will and hack together your own preferred technology stack. However, whilst this makes it flexible, you’ll only benefit if your organisation has the right in-house resources.

VMware, in comparison, has been designed for a market of users who don’t necessarily need to be as tech-savvy. It’s well suited to smaller businesses who want the process of moving to the cloud to be as straightforward as possible, and who don’t want to get their hands dirty.

Management tools

There’s a clear winner in terms of management tools here. VMware’s long history means it benefits from a lively community of third-party developers, giving customers the liberty to choose from an extensive list of management tools (as well as excellent options from the VMware stable like VCloud Director).

In comparison, getting the right functionality from your management tools in the open-source world can be something of an uphill battle – and, depending on your business objectives, you may find you need to make do with a rather inelegant solution.

As you make your journey to cloud, you’ll realise that there’s a lot more to consider than just open source vs propriety hypervisor. Find out more in our free IaaS migration checklist.

FREE download: IaaS migration checklist >

Free download: IaaS migration checklist

Topics: cloud hosting, vmware

James Burns

Written by James Burns

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