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VMware's Photon OS Reaches Release Candidate Milestone

VMware is nearing completion of Photon OS, its effort to create a lightweight OS for cloud-first development. Yesterday the company published the Release Candidate (RC) for version 1.0.

Gregory Murray, Product Line Manager for Cloud-Native Apps at VMware, blogged about the RC, saying it's close to being production-ready. He said "We took the opportunity to… really hammer on Photon OS performance, security and package library. We think you'll find this RC much more representative of what's needed to run Linux, cloud-native applications on vSphere."

Murray listed the most important updates from the previous version of Photon:

  • Easy system updates and in-place upgrades. Today's release candidate includes tdnf enhancements, making it straightforward to perform system-wide scans and refreshes of your installed core packages, including Docker.
  • Greatly expanded package library in the repos. As we worked with support, the guest operating system validation team and others, we found critical requirements for many new packages. These packages should make Photon OS much more broadly applicable to customer use-cases and open up many new options on what can be done with Photon OS.
  • More file systems options: With the newer 4.2 kernel, Photon OS now supports btrfs, in addition to overlayfs, giving users the ability to leverage some of the efficiencies and capabilities of btrfs.
  • New performance enhancements: We continue to tune the Photon OS kernel when running on vSphere and now deliver a 10-26 percent improvement in file operation microbenchmarks. We'll be working with our performance team to translate this to some real-world applications and post more details on the VROOM! blog.

Photon OS is all about working with containers. To that end, it's also been integrated with Photon Platform and vSphere Integrated Containers.

Photon vs. vSphere Integrated Containers
It can be confusing to understand the difference between the Photon Platform and vSphere Integrated Containers, since they seem to offer the same thing: comprehensive management of containers. One of the main differentiators is that vSphere Integrated Containers are meant to be managed within vSphere itself, using vSphere tools. This provides an easier on-ramp to container management for admins who prefer to work with what they know.

Photon Platform is an end-to-end infrastructure, and doesn't rely on vSphere (note, however, that both platforms use VMware's ESXi hypervisor underneath). Photon Platform should be faster than vSphere Integrated Containers, given its much smaller footprint, but it's an unfamiliar environment that will take time to get comfortable with. The emphasis with Photon is speed and scale, at the cost of some advanced management capabilities offered by vSphere. Photon Platform works best with apps designed from the ground up to be cloud-friendly.

The RC is the first update of Photon OS since Tech Preview 2 came out last August. It's open source, and the code is freely available on VMware's GitHub repository. It's taken about year to get to this point: Project Photon was announced publically last April 21. 

Take note that Photon OS is still in a pre-release state, and VMware cautions to not use it for production workloads until the first official version drops.

About the Author

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

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