VMware announced today that an instance of the VMware vSphere platform in which Kubernetes has been embedded is now generally available.
Krish Prasad, senior vice president and general manager for the Cloud Platform Business Unit for VMware, says VMware vSphere 7 marks the culmination of an effort to meld its virtual machine platform with Kubernetes, which began last year with the launch of a Project Pacific initiative.
Most instances of Kubernetes are already deployed on top of a virtual machine to ensure isolation between workloads. VMware vSphere 7 takes that deployment option a step further by embedding Kubernetes within the hypervisor of the virtual machine. In some use cases, Prasad says that approach results in workloads that are 8% to 10% faster than bare metal machines mainly because of the scheduling software included within VMware vSphere 7.
To take advantage of that capability, VMware requires organizations that want to employ a distribution of Kubernetes embedded within VMware vSphere 7 to also license VMware Cloud Foundation, a full-stack set of software for managing virtual machines and providing access to storage and networking services. VMware chose to make VMware Cloud Foundation a requirement because Kubernetes clusters running on either x86 processors or graphical processor units (GPUs) require access to external storage and networking services, says Prasad.
Obviously, that approach binds Kubernetes to VMware vSphere in a way that enables VMware to keep existing VMware vSphere customers close. Workloads running on Kubernetes are still portable, but VMware is making a case for porting the entire stack of software required to operationalize Kubernetes along with it. That approach makes it easier to run VMware vSphere 7 and VMware Cloud Foundation both on-premises and on a variety of public clouds to advance hybrid cloud computing, he says.
Prasad notes the VMware approach is also the path of least resistance to operationalizing Kubernetes. IT administrators are currently managing more than 80 million workloads on VMware vSphere. The release of VMware vSphere 7 potentially turns all those IT administrators into Kubernetes administrators, at a time when container orchestration and management expertise is in short supply, he says.
Of course, some IT organizations may opt for a variety of open source options to manage Kubernetes clusters as an alternative to VMware vSphere 7 and VMware Cloud Foundation. However, Prashad contends it’s already been shown that the time and effort required to stitch together a full-stack IT platform is significantly greater than the VMware approach. As such, the total cost of deploying a full open source stack winds up being significantly higher than licensing VMware software, he says.
Another capability made available to Kubernetes clusters within the context of VMware vSphere 7 includes remote attestation for sensitive workloads using vSphere Trust Authority that secures access and account management using identity federation with Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS).
VMware, of course, is also hedging its bets by making available a Tanzu cloud service to build, deploy and manage workloads on any distribution of Kubernetes, including the distribution embedded in VMware vSphere 7. A recent survey of enterprise IT organizations published by VMware finds that well over half (59%) of the respondents are running Kubernetes in a production environment, with one-third (33%) operating 26 more clusters or more and one-fifth (20%) running more than 50 clusters.
There was a time when many considered Kubernetes to be an existential threat to the existence of VMware. Clearly, however, the company has found a way to make Kubernetes and VMware coexist. Most IT organizations will be running monolithic applications on virtual machines alongside microservices-based applications running on Kubernetes for many years to come. What remains to be seen now is to what degree of coexistence in those environments will actually be achieved.