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VMware Announces New Container Offerings at VMworld 2015

Once seen as hostile to the technology, the company appears to have done a complete about-face.

People once wondered whether VMware Inc. would ever embrace containers because they could be seen as a threat to the VMware cash cow, the virtual machines (VMs) created by its hypervisor, ESXi. In fact, VMware was mostly silent on containers for a long time, even as Docker exploded onto the scene.

VMworld 2015 has made it clear, though, that VMware has found the container religion. That was made obvious by two announcements at the show: VMware vSphere Integrated Containers and VMware Photon Platform. Essentially, these products allow admins to run an entire container infrastructure on vSphere.

"Today, VMware is announcing foundational infrastructure that will enable customers to deploy cloud-native applications in production with confidence," said Ray O'Farrell, VMware's CTO, in a press release. "It's all about choice. Customers will be able to jump-start their container initiatives on top of their existing VMware vSphere environments or consume new infrastructure designed specifically for cloud-native applications."

vSphere Integrated Containers ties together a number of technologies VMware has unveiled this year, including Project BonnevillePhoton Platform (formerly Project Photon) and VMware's Instant Clone technology, which was introduced with vSphere 6.0. It will be useful for admins managing containers in a number of ways, according to VMware:

  • Security and Isolation: Assuring the integrity and authenticity of containers and their underlying infrastructure, Project Bonneville -- a technology preview -- isolates and starts up each container in a VM with minimal overhead using the Instant Clone feature of VMware vSphere 6.0.
  • Storage and Data Persistence: While many container services are stateless today, customers have the desire to enable stateful services to support cloud-native databases. It will enable provisioning of persistent data volumes for containers in VMware vSphere environments, including VSAN and Virtual Volumes, two VMware software-defined storage offerings.
  • Networking: NSX is the VMware software-defined networking (SDN) product, and it supports production container deployments. It enables IT to apply fine-grained network micro-segmentation and policy-based security to cloud-native applications to provide greater visibility into container behavior. NSX also allows containers to be integrated with the rest of the datacenter, and can be connected to quarantine, forensics and/or monitoring networks for additional monitoring and troubleshooting.

Photon Platform is a Linux-based OS for building out cloud-native apps. A new product for Photon was announced at VMworld: Photon Controller, a control plane for creating and supporting containers, on the scale of thousands of containers per minute and hundreds of thousands of simultaneous workloads. It's worth noting that Photon Controller will be an open source project "to help encourage broad input, testing and adoption from customers, partners and the community at large," VMware said. The company isn't generally considered a leader in the open source movement.

Both VMware vSphere Integrated Containers and the VMware Photon Platform were released as technology previews. Kit Colbert, VMware CTO for Cloud-Native Apps, said in a blog post that they'll be available as a private beta by the end of this year.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.

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