Your submission was sent successfully! Close

You have successfully unsubscribed! Close

Thank you for signing up for our newsletter!
In these regular emails you will find the latest updates about Ubuntu and upcoming events where you can meet our team.Close

OpenStack vs VMware: Bringing costs down

Tytus Kurek

on 2 January 2020

This article was last updated 1 year ago.

Moving to OpenStack from VMware can significantly reduce the TCO associated with an initial roll-out and ongoing maintenance of your cloud infrastructure. OpenStack vs VMware economic analysis shows that under certain circumstances, it is possible to bring the costs down by an entire order of magnitude. This requires choosing an OpenStack distribution which can be maintained economically. An example of such distribution is Canonical’s Charmed OpenStack.

We have recently published a webinar where we presented outcomes of our analysis around cost savings resulting from the migration from VMware to OpenStack. You can refer to those materials or, you can just read through this blog to capture the most important information. So let’s start with highlighting OpenStack vs VMware’s differences and elaborate more on how they influence the costs associated with both.

OpenStack vs VMware: Economics comparison

VMware provides its virtualisation platform under vRealize Suite. The entire platform is proprietary-source and owned by VMware. vRealize is designed to run on a special purpose hardware, such as blade servers and storage arrays. Its architecture is centralised, meaning that control services run on their own dedicated nodes while compute, network and storage resources are provided independently by other nodes. VMware vRealize Suite is available in three different variants, allowing access to certain services only to those users who are willing to pay more.

In turn, OpenStack is an open-source project hosted by the OpenStack Foundation. It is a fully-functional cloud platform which organisations can use for the purpose of private and public clouds implementation. Contrary to VMware, OpenStack is designed to run on regular hardware and supports so-called hyper-converged architecture. In hyper-converged architecture, all nodes are the same and provide control, compute, network and storage services. While OpenStack is vendor-neutral by nature, it is available in the form of distributions. Canonical created its Charmed OpenStack distribution with economics in mind, ensuring cost savings when migrating from VMware.

So where are those cost savings exactly coming from?


The adoption process starts with a software purchase. Since vRealize is proprietary-source software, licensing costs apply. And they are pretty significant. For example, the PLU (Portable LIcense Unit) for vRealize Advanced, costs $6,445. Moreover, as VMware uses a per-CPU pricing model, you need as many PLUs as there are CPUs in your cluster. So if your physical servers have four, eight or more CPUs, the licencing costs can inflate very quickly.

On its part, OpenStack is an open-source software. It is available under the Apache License which means that it can be used free of charge. Even if deployed within one of the available distributions, vendors must not add any additional licensing costs. This applies to Charmed OpenStack too. Canonical is glad to provide its own OpenStack distribution at no cost while encouraging its customers to buy consulting, support and managed services.

Hardware and architecture

Another differentiator is hardware and architecture used by both. VMware vRealize is designed to run on a special-purpose hardware, such as blade servers and storage arrays. Such hardware is usually more expensive than regular hardware. This brings the initial costs up, but may also influence OpEx over time, as hardware has to be refreshed on a regular basis. Moreover, as vRealize’s architecture is centralised, dedicated hardware has to be purchased to host control, compute/network and storage services, even if those machines would not be fully utilised.

OpenStack, however, is designed to run regular hardware. Furthermore, OpenStack supports hyper-converged architecture, meaning that control, compute, network and storage services are distributed across all nodes in the cluster. As a result, all physical machines in the cluster can be based on the same hardware specification. This helps to lower the cost associated with hardware purchase and ensures optimal utilisation of resources.

Consulting and operations

Although organisations can perform the initial deployment of both VMware and OpenStack alone, the complexity usually enforces the need for consulting services. VMware provides consulting services at a fixed price of $400,000. However, a successful deployment is just the beginning of the journey. Organisations have to maintain the entire platform on a daily basis. As VMware does not offer managed services for vRealize, its customers have to hire and train dedicated staff. This makes operational costs unpredictable and hard to evaluate.

Canonical offers consulting services at a more reasonable price. The Private Cloud Build package provides hardware guidance, access to the reference architecture and a two-week delivery. The price varies from $75,000 to $150,000 depending on the complexity of your environment. And, as OpenStack operations tend to be challenging, Canonical offers fully managed services for OpenStack at the price of $4,275 per physical server per year. Managed services offering includes support and is the only cost that customer has to pay on a regular basis post-deployment.


Proper support services are an essential component of every production environment. Organisations have to upgrade the entire platform when new releases become available, patch it against security vulnerabilities, etc. VMware applies the same pricing model to support services as to the licenses. The more CPUs there are in your cluster the more you are going to pay. This again brings TCO up, even if your physical servers remain underloaded.

On the other hand, Canonical applies per-node model to support services for Charmed OpenStack. This makes OpEx more predictable and allows you to benefit from the advances in computer science, using more and more powerful physical servers while paying the same amount of money for OpenStack support. Support services for Charmed OpenStack are available under the UA-I (Ubuntu Advantage for Infrastructure) package. In its most comprehensive version – Advanced – they cost $1,500 yearly per each physical server. 

OpenStack vs VMware: Conclusions

Due to the open-source nature of the OpenStack, the costs associated with its initial roll-out and ongoing operations are usually lower compared to VMware. By applying the per-node support model, using hyper-converged architecture and offering consulting, support and managed services at a reasonable price, Canonical’s Charmed OpenStack distribution goes one step further. It helps to bring the costs down by an entire order of magnitude.

To learn more about Canonical’s solution for OpenStack, visit our website.

Explore migration strategies:

Ubuntu cloud

Ubuntu offers all the training, software infrastructure, tools, services and support you need for your public and private clouds.

Newsletter signup

Get the latest Ubuntu news and updates in your inbox.

By submitting this form, I confirm that I have read and agree to Canonical's Privacy Policy.

Related posts

Cloudify your data centre – A guide to VMware infrastructure transformation

You know what’s going on. You’ve been monitoring the situation around VMware for at least a year now. There is no need to convince you that whatever comes...

VMware alternatives: discover open source

Are you looking for VMware alternatives? Think open source – the world’s leading software portfolio. Open-source software enables you to build fully...

VMware to open source: what do you need to consider?

Read on for some of the most important considerations when thinking about migrating from VMware to Ubuntu-based open-source infrastructure.