March 18, 2018

VMware, in collaboration with sister company Pivotal, announced this week the general availability of the Kubernetes instance  developed by the two companies.

Paul Dul, vice president of product management for cloud native applications at VMware, says the Pivotal Container Service (PKS) is much more than a curated instance of Kubernetes. It comes integrated with VMware NSX-T network virtualization software, BOSH cluster lifecycle management tools and a container registry based on the open source Project Harbor software developed by VMware. Project Harbor makes it easier to group users and repositories to enable granular control over, for example, both scanned and unscanned images within a continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline.

That means capabilities such as microsegmentation, security policies, container image signing, vulnerability scanning and user identity and access management are all built into the core PKS platform, says Dul.

The VMware/Pivotal offering is based on version 1.9.2 of Kubernetes, Dul says, noting that VMware is committed to keeping pace with the Kubernetes release cycle established by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). The company plans to deliver support for any update to Kubernetes within 30 days, and that support for version 1.9.2 of Kubernetes from VMware was achieved only two days after Google, he adds.

VMware is working with Pivotal on PKS as part of its effort to develop stronger relationships with developers, Dul says. Pivotal has been a leading developer of a platform-as-as-service (PaaS) environment based on the open source Cloud Foundry project. As of late, it also has extended its reach to support containers on top of its PaaS environment and within the context of a dedicated container-as-service (CaaS) environment.

Dul says VMware also plans to make available a variety of training materials aimed specifically at educating both developers and IT operations teams on how to take advantage of both PKS and VMware Integrated Container (VIC) software with the context of a larger set of integrated DevOps processes.

Kubernetes represents both a significant opportunity for VMware and a potential existential threat. VMware clearly is the dominant provider of virtual machines in the enterprise, a position it has been aggressively expanding on using network and storage virtualization software to create a software-defined data center (SDDC) platform. Many VMware customers are looking to layer Kubernetes on top of their existing environment to support containers as a complementary set of services.

Some VMware rivals, however, are making the case for employing Kubernetes clusters as an opportunity to create a new construct for building a SDDC platform. A Kubernetes cluster unifies the management of compute, storage and networking. As the tooling around Kubernetes continues to mature, VMware rivals contend the need for VMware software to create a SDDC platform will be sharply diminished. In effect, Kubernetes and containers will create an alternative layer of abstraction that can be deployed on bare-metal servers or a lightweight instance of hypervisor.

It’s too early to say how this epic battle for control of the enterprise will play out. But given the cost of VMware software licenses, any vendor that touts an alternative approach based on open source software can at the very least gain a hearing among perennially cost-conscious IT organizations.

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.