At the core of the VMware strategy for being able to natively support containers is a VMware Photon Platform that consists of VMware Photon Controller, an open sourced distributed control plane, Photon OS, a minimal Linux container host, and VMware ESXi, a bare metal hypervisor.
Now VMware this week is looking to accelerate adoption of that platform by partnering with Pivotal, an EMC sister company, to bundle an implementation of the Cloud Foundry platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment. Mike Paiko, director of product marketing for cloud-native apps at VMware, says the goal is to help accelerate adoption of cloud native applications by organizations that don’t necessarily have the time or engineering expertise integrate all the components required to run these new classes of applications.
Cloud Foundry has its own container architecture. But those containers can run either Cloud Foundry or Docker container images. Abby Kearns, vice president of industry strategy for the Cloud Foundry Foundation, says given that level of compatibility the consortium responsible for overseeing the ongoing development of the Cloud Foundry PaaS doesn’t see the need to replace the existing container architecture.
In general, there are three primary ways containers are getting deployed in the enterprise. The most common is on top of an existing virtual machine; the second is on a bare metal server. But as enterprise IT organizations embrace PaaS environments a third option for deploying containers on premise and in the cloud is gaining traction.
From VMware’s perspective Paiko says the partnership with Pivotal provides a mechanism for achieving that goal using VMware technology that IT operations teams already know. This approach also provides customers with a single source for both technologies that will be supported by VMware.
The joint offering also includes the Photon Platform BOSH CPI (Cloud Provider Interface) that allows IT organizations to use Cloud Foundry to deploy and manage applications on Photon Platform. The VMware Photon Platform itself can be accessed using an API, command line interface or a graphical interface provider by VMware.
In addition, VMware says it also plans to soon make available a VMware Photon Machine that can be used in place of the Linux container host VMware provides today.
Paiko also notes that IT organizations may opt to plug any orchestration platform they want into the VMware Photon Platform, but the integration with Cloud Foundry actually eliminates the need for a separate container orchestration framework, says Paiko. That capability allows developers to implement any orchestration framework they prefer, while giving the IT operations team a more robust framework for managing container applications in production environments, says Paiko.
Obviously, there’s a lot of nuance these days when it comes to deploying containers in the enterprise. Which route any given IT organization will pursue will often depend on how entrenched they are with one platform or another. Given the current dominance of on premise IT environments that VMware enjoys it clearly expects to be a container force to be reckoned with. But before VMware can realize those ambitions it needs to explain in detail to both developers and IT operations teams why it represents the path of least resistance to container adoption in the enterprise.