CloudStack vs. vCloud—Which is Right for Your Organization?

Written by Joe Kozlowicz on Wednesday, June 17th 2015 — Categories: Cloud Hosting, Cloud Hosting, VMware

man on cliff looking out over the cloudsThere are a few leading choices on the market when it comes to deploying and managing cloud servers. Two popular options are CloudStack, an open source project from Apache, and vCloud from VMware. The two platforms both offer web portals for cloud management, API compatibilities, snapshots, monitoring, security options, and virtual network tools.

Depending on your IT department’s current infrastructure, staff levels, and knowledge, one or the other might be a better choice for private or hybrid cloud deployments.


CloudStack Overview

CloudStack was developed back in 2010 by, who was subsequently purchased by Citrix. At this time, CloudStack supported OpenStack, another open source cloud management platform. After some work by Citrix including releasing the platform under the GNU General Public License (which allows for free download and use of the software), Citrix donated CloudStack to the Apache Software Foundation and also quit working on OpenStack. It left Apache’s incubator to become a fully fledged project with a stable release in 2013.

In a full production environment, CloudStack requires one server to run as a Management Server at least one other that serves as the shared resources for cloud infrastructure.

CloudStack can run a variety of hypervisors, so it is platform agnostic. These include Xen, vSphere, Hyper-V, and KVN.

CloudStack meets par for the course when it comes other cloud management standards: it supports snapshots and volumes, live migration of VMs between servers/availability zones, template VMs, virtual networking, virtual firewalls, virtual load balancers, and local storage support. A customizable AJAX web interface can be used to manage scale of up to 40,000 hosts, with CPU, memory, storage, and networking all controlled at one point.

CloudStack requires additional time, effort, and knowledge to deploy, and as a free product documentation often comes in the form of forum posting and community consultation. There is no dedicated support team to turn to (unless you are using CloudStack through a cloud provider, in which case you don’t need to worry about set up and configuration anyway, only provisioning, networking, storage, and monitoring).

The main advantage with CloudStack is interoperability, thanks to its wide support of different hypervisors and support for Amazon Web Services API, making it simple to set up a production hybrid cloud.

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VMware vCloud Overview

vCloud Suite is VMware’s complete hypervisor and cloud management software. VMware is one of the oldest developers in the space, pioneering virtualization since the late nineties. vCloud has existed since 2008 as a cloud management system, allowing interoperability with on-premise workloads virtualized with VMware vSphere.

As a VMware product, vCloud works best with the vSphere hypervisor, but it does also support Hyper-V, Xen, and Red Hat virtualization. Interoperability with other clouds can also be achieved via export to OVF or open virtualization format. Much like CloudStack, vCloud is designed to manage multiple virtual infrastructures across different locations or data centers.

vCloud also supports snapshots, volumes, live migration, templates, virtual networking, virtual firewalls, virtual load balancers, and local storage support. It can handle up to 50,000 total virtual machines, with 30,000 powered on. vCloud can manage up to 2,000 host servers for these machines.

While it is more expensive (after all, CloudStack is free!) and somewhat more limited, VMware provides extensive support and documentation, making setup and troubleshooting easier, especially for smaller teams.

vCloud is more appealing to shops with legacy VMware infrastructure, as they can manage and migrate existing machines into a larger hybrid cloud system. Also, if choosing CloudStack, there is a good chance you’ll be using the vSphere hypervisor also, and the nicely packaged combination of vSphere and vCloud could make administration smoother. 

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