VMware today launched a modular instance of a Kubernetes designed to make it easier for IT organizations to employ third-party networking and storage services.
Based on technology VMware gained with its acquisition of Heptio last year, this latest offering is an addition to VMware’s portfolio of offerings that already includes VMware Enterprise Pivotal Container Service (PKS), which incorporates VMware NSX virtual networking and VMware vSAN virtual storage. Also available is VMware Cloud PKS, a managed instance of Kubernetes based on a consumption pricing model.
Scott Buchanan, vice president of marketing for Heptio, says the new VMware Essential PKS provides a curated instance of Kubernetes based on the upstream distribution of Kubernetes created by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), reference architectures for deploying Kubernetes and a series of guides that teach IT teams how to maintain, upgrade and troubleshoot Kubernetes. Heptio now operates as a unit of VMware.
Like every instance of Kubernetes provided by VMware, this latest offering runs on top of virtual machines. Buchanan notes that more than 80 percent of all containers run on top of virtual machines to better isolate workloads. In some cases, VMware expects organizations will employ the various offerings provided by VMware based on the level of internal Kubernetes expertise available. Organizations that don’t see a requirement for NSX or vSAN and prefer to manage Kubernetes themselves will opt for VMware Essential PKS. VMware has signaled it eventually will extend the reach of its existing management frameworks to be more tightly integrated with VMware Essential PKS.
Because of the high number of containers running on virtual machines from VMware, the number of Kubernetes clusters instances that are being deployed in VMware environments to manage those containers is rising sharply. However, not all those distributions of Kubernetes are being provided by VMware, which potentially opens the door for other management frameworks in VMware environments.
VMware is also watching two other developments as they pertain to containers and Kubernetes. First, some container advocates are now making the case for a much more lightweight instances of a virtual machine to provide isolation between containers. They argue legacy virtual machines are simply too large to support cloud-native applications based on containers efficiently.
Second, there’s also a nascent move toward deploying containers and Kubernetes on bare-metal servers. IT organizations that favor this approach tend to argue that hardware accelerators such as graphical processor units (GPUs) don’t work well with virtual machines, which wind up adding additional unnecessary overhead to containerized applications.
It’s too early to say to what degree Kubernetes represents a threat to VMware. There is a clear opportunity for VMware to extend its dominance of local data center environments to include Kubernetes. But the IT operations teams that manage those environments don’t always pick the distribution of Kubernetes on which cloud-native applications will be deployed. Developers continue to exercise a lot of control over which Kubernetes distribution is selected during the application development process. Of course, VMware is betting that just because one distribution of Kubernetes was selected to build an application, it does not necessarily follow that same distribution of Kubernetes will be relied on to deploy it.