June 25, 2017

IT organizations in large numbers have been deploying containers on top of VMware because that’s the dominant platform deployed inside most enterprise IT organizations. But many of those organizations also want to be able to deploy those containers on a public cloud service as needed. To provide that capability, VMware has been relying on Apcera, a provider of a container management platform that makes it easier to move containers between various platforms.

The two companies this week announced that Apcera has attained VMware Ready status within the VMware technology partner ecosystem. Eric Leach, vice president of product management for Apcera, says the relationship between the two companies is strategic because IT organizations don’t want to be locked into a single platform. While containers such as Docker can be ported easily, Apcera provides a means to attach policies along with all the networking configuration information needed to deploy those containers on top of, for example, VMware NSX network overlays or within a software-defined network (SDN) service provided by Amazon Web Services. That’s critical, he says: Given the ephemeral nature of many containers, there needs to be a platform that abstracts away the complexity associated with deploying containers on multiple platforms that don’t share any common base of infrastructure.

Leach says Apcera can run on anything from a bare-metal server to any virtual machine or public cloud computing environment. Apcera makes each of those environments appear to container applications as if they were a single cluster. In the context of VMware, Leach says the most common hybrid cloud computing deployment involving containers spans AWS and VMware.

VMware itself is gearing up to advance its own multicloud strategy. At the Dell EMC World 2017 conference last month, VMware publicly demonstrated instances of its software stack running on AWS for the first time. But not every IT organization is going to standardize on VMware software on-premises and in a public cloud. In multicloud scenarios, VMware customers can employ Apcera software integrated with their existing VMware tooling to deploy and move containers as they best see fit.

Obviously, the relationship VMware has with containers is complicated. Many container advocates contend containers running on bare-metal servers will soon eclipse the need for virtual machines altogether. But on a practical level, a paucity of dedicated container tools and lack of container management skills makes more organizations more comfortable deploying containers on top of VMware. VMware, via alliances with Apcera, appears to be more comfortable with container technologies, which at one time it viewed as a more existential threat to its existence than today.

In the meantime, IT organizations should expect to be managing containers and virtual machines side by side for years to come, if for no other reason than the mass of legacy applications already deployed on virtual machines. It’s unlikely the bulk of those applications will be transformed into microservices based on containers anytime soon. And even when they are they may still wind up being deployed on some type of a virtual machine running in a local data center or in a cloud.

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.