VMware Advances Container Ambitions

At the VMworld 2016 conference this week VMware continued its campaign to stay relevant in the new age of microservices. The vSphere Integrated Containers orchestration engine has been upgraded to include support for a Harbor container registry along with a new Admiral container management portal.

That portal when coupled with vRealize automation software is being positioned as a container-as-a-service (CaaS) platform through which IT organizations can employ to allow developers to invoke IT infrastructure requirements on demand within the confines of policies created by the internal IT operations team.

vSphere Integrated Containers is designed to create a mechanism through which IT organizations that have standardized on vSphere can interact with Docker container images. Originally developed as part of Project Bonneville, vSphere Integrated Containers runs on Linux. But Kit Colbert, CTO for the Cloud Business Unit, says the core container orchestration engine the company developed is designed from the ground up to run on multiple operating systems. VMware has yet to commit to making vSphere Integration Containers available on, for example, Windows. But given the fact that the majority of vSphere deployments run on Windows, it’s only a matter of time before VMware moves in the direction.

In addition to enhancements to vSphere Integrated Containers, VMware Photon OS, a container host operating system, soon will be integrated with both the Kubernetes container orchestration framework as well as VMware NSX network virtualization software. That move comes on the heels of the company recently showing support for Kubernetes also running on top of VMware Integrated OpenStack, an implementation of the cloud platform that runs on top of VMware vSphere. At the conference this week the company formally announced that VMware Integrated OpenStack now incorporates technologies developed as part of the Mitaka release of the open-source cloud platform.

When it comes to containers and microservices VMware is clearly banking on the loyalty of IT operations teams that have made massive investments in its platform. Today most containers are deployed on virtual machines from either VMware or the open-source Kernel-based virtual machine (KVM) project or on public clouds such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) that have their own hypervisor implementations. But as the tooling surrounding containers continues to mature, a much larger percentage of containers may wind up being deployed on bare-metal servers. Those deployments would make more efficient use of IT infrastructure than the typical virtual machine.

In the fullness of time it’s clear that IT operations teams are going to find themselves managing containers distributed all across the extended enterprise. From the company’s perspective the rise of containers represents both an opportunity and a threat. In theory, container sprawl should eventually create more demand for its management software. On the other hand, IT organizations may opt for management tools that were designed for containers from the ground up. Right now, it has thousands of customers leaning more to the former than the latter. The issue, however, is that it may not be the people using VMware in the enterprise today that actually decide what platforms will be used to manage containers tomorrow.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.

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