Nicira builds virtual computer networks — networks that exist only as software — and much of its networking technology is open source, meaning it’s freely available to anyone. But the company is also one of the primary forces behind the OpenStack project — a sweeping effort to build an open source platform that mimics the massively popular cloud service offered by Amazon.
As is typically the case in the world of open source software, the politics of the situation are as complicated as the technology. OpenStack is a direct competitor to a proprietary VMware platform known as vCloud Diretor. But much like Microsoft and other giants of the software world, VMware is realizing it must play nicely with open source software if it’s to succeed in the all-important realm of cloud computing, where the likes of Amazon offer the world instant access to virtual computing resources over the net.