Dan's Take

vSphere Integrated Containers: Beyond the VM

VMware more fully embraces non-VM solutions.

At VMworld 2016, VMware announced an enhancement to its vSphere Integrated Containers product by more closely integrating Docker's version of operating system virtualization and partitioning, a.k.a. "containers," to make enterprise IT's tasks a bit easier. Here's what the company had to say:

"VMware … unveiled two new capabilities of VMware vSphere Integrated Containers, which enables IT operations teams to provide a Docker compatible interface to their app teams, running on their existing vSphere infrastructure. New container registry and management console features round out VMware vSphere Integrated Containers to further help IT teams operate containers in production with confidence. It is now available as open source software and registration for a beta program is now open."
Happy Anniversary
Back in August 2015 (is it the end of August 2016 already? Where did the time go?), VMware announced that it was integrating Container technology into its product portfolio. The goal was making it easily possible for enterprises to deploy applications encapsulated in virtual machines (VMs), applications in containers, and, of course, containerized applications in VMs.

This announcement takes things a bit further. VMware introduced Admiral and Harbor to ease registry and management functionality in the VMware environment and also to support "production-grade containerized applications." In VMware's words:

The two new open source software projects deliver:

  • Admiral -- A built-in container management portal for VMware vSphere Integrated Containers that developers and application teams can use to accelerate application delivery.
  • Harbor -- An enterprise container registry that is built into VMware vSphere Integrated Containers. Based on Docker Distribution, VMware has added several enterprise features including user management and access control, policy-based image replication, support for audit and logs, a RESTful API for integration, among many others.

VMware went on to tout that it had integrated this technology with many of its products, including vSphere, NSX and Virtual SAN (VSAN).

VMware, like others such as Red Hat and SUSE, is doing its best to help its customers -- and the industry as a whole -- understand that VMs have their place in the enterprise software portfolio, but they also aren't the proper tool for every job. In the case of this announcement, VMware is showing that containers have a place, too. This announcement mirrors the thoughts of other suppliers in this area; see "Red Hat and Containers" and "Are Containers and Virtual Machines Really Competitors?" for more information.

Some have positioned containers as something new and different, even though it's simply an implementation of operating system virtualization and partitioning that is, in theory, quite similar to IBM's VPARs and LPARs, and UNIX Zones.

These same people pit VM technology and operating system virtualization and partitioning against one another, even though they serve different needs and are quite complementary to one another.

Dan's Take: A Profitable Pivot
Ultimately, VMware has come face-to-face with how limiting its previous positioning -- that VM software equals virtualization as a whole -- has become. It's being forced to embrace a much broader view that virtualization is a much bigger topic.

As I've often pointed out, the Kusnetzky Group model contains seven layers; each layer contains many different types of virtualization technology, and all are in use in modern datacenters today. It's good, however, to watch VMware pivot to accept a more comprehensive, and ultimately more useful, view of the topic.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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