June 25, 2017

VMware is continuing to extend the reach of its effort to host cloud-native applications with the release of 1.1 update to its Photon Platform that enables microservices based on containers such as Docker to run on a lightweight Linux host running the VMware ESXi hypervisor.

Via this release, VMware is now officially adding support for NSX and VSAN virtual networking and storage technologies, as well as support for the Kubernetes container orchestration engine.

Paul Fazzone, general manager of cloud native apps for VMware, says support for NSX and VSAN are critical components of VMware’s overall strategy for supporting cloud-native applications. Many of the rival platforms that host these applications come with their own networking and storage technologies. But given VMware’s dominance in the enterprise, Fazzone says VMware is betting that enterprise IT organizations will prefer to extend existing investments in virtual and networking storage technologies to cloud native applications. Otherwise, IT organizations will wind up incurring much more technical debt than they need to just to support what amounts to a new class of application workloads.

Add those capabilities to a VMware management framework that is also already widely employed across the enterprise, and Fazzone says it’s only a matter of time before IT operations teams employ the Photon Platform in place of other platforms a developer might have used when first developing their application.

VMware is also trying to make the Photon Platform more appealing to IT managers by including a management interface based on HTML5 that makes the platform simpler to manage in a multi-tenant environment.

The VMware approach to the Photon Platform in many ways mirrors much of the divide that exists today between IT operations teams and developers. IT operations teams have less control over developers than ever. But when it comes time to deploy applications in a production environment, IT operations teams still exercise a lot of influence over the underlying platform. In contrast, developers are less interested in the IT infrastructure used to host their applications as long as compatibility and performance are not affected.

To that end, VMware is hedging its bets by providing both a Photon Platform and a VMware Integrated Containers offering that enables containers to run on top of traditional VMware virtual machines. The latter platform is designed to appeal to IT organizations that don’t want to have to implement new tooling and infrastructure to run containers.

Naturally, it remains to be seen to what degree VMware can fend off multiple platform rivals in the age of the container. VMware has a huge presence when it comes to server virtualization. But it’s only just beginning to make its presence felt in the realms of virtual networking and storage. Assuming VMware can firmly establish itself across all aspects of the data center, then making a case of the Photon Platform becomes a lot simpler. But competition across both the virtual storage and networking landscape is nothing but fierce. That means that from the perspective of VMware container platforms are only one of several fronts it needs to successfully engage while continuing to hold on to its core hypervisor base.

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.