News, VMworld 2019

VMware Unveils Its Kubernetes-Fueled Future

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 26—If there was one theme that came through the opening keynote presentation at VMworld 2019, it was this: going forward, VMware is all-in on Kubernetes.

In its headlong pursuit of cloud computing market share, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger made a slew of announcements, and most of them revolved around Kubernetes, the leading container orchestration platform in the industry. VMware is clearly positioning itself to not only dominate the infrastructure arena, but also to make a giant push into the cloud development and DevOps spaces. That doesn’t happen without Kubernetes.

The umbrella name for all of this Kubernetes integration is called “VMware Tanzu,” a suite of products and services “to transform the way enterprises build, run and manage software on Kubernetes,” according to a VMworld press release.

The transformation starts with the most foundational of all VMware products: vSphere. The Kubernetes-ized version of vSphere is called “Project Pacific.” It’s a fundamental re-architecting of vSphere that will turn it into a Kubernetes-native platform.

In a blog entry, VMware VP/CTO of the Cloud Business Unit Kit Colbert called Project Pacific “… the biggest evolution of vSphere in easily the last decade.” That’s a bold statement, but not inaccurate. Kubernetes will be embedded into vSphere’s control plane, providing unified access to compute, storage, and networking resources, and “converge” containers and virtual machines (VMs) using a new “Native Pod” that are, in Colbert’s words, “high performing, secure and easy to consume.”

VMware’s Project Pacific architecture.

It all adds up to a unified platform that extends vSphere’s management of VMs to the container realm. Currently, Kubernetes is a separate stack from VMs, and therefore requires separate installment, management, monitoring, and so on.

Now, with containers as a first-class citizen of vSphere, both developers and operations teams have the ability to interact with them via the vSphere client. Admins can apply their operations expertise to container lifecycle management, and developers have greater access through the Kubernetes API. It greatly simplifies the environment and gets closer to the goal of DevOps nirvana.

The new management framework is called VMware Tanzu Mission Control (note that all these products are in tech preview; no date was set for the products’ GA). Tanzu Mission Control manages Kubernetes clusters across an array of environments: public clouds, managed services, vSphere, at the edge, private clouds—wherever they exist.

VMware Tanzu Mission Control

VMware’s Tanzu Mission Control.

Tanzu Mission Control monitors cluster health, enforces policies (including role-based access), and makes sure backup is working properly, among other capabilities. It works at either a cluster-wide or application-specific level. In addition, it works with new Kubernetes clusters or pre-existing ones that are folded in.

It all sounds great; and, in fact, it is great, if you’re doing a lot of cloud-native development and migrating part or all of your infrastructure to the cloud. VMware lauded the speed increases they’re seeing with the new and improved vSphere, for instance, so there are other benefits as well.

The question many admins will be asking themselves, though, is “how specifically will this help me do my job day to day?” That answer is less clear. If your environment isn’t cutting edge, and you’re still using boring old on-premises, VM-based infrastructure, is there any urgency to implement this new paradigm? The answer for many of you is likely to be “No.”

It’s obvious that the public cloud is growing steadily, and many companies are using it; but those uses are often still limited to test/dev and backup/disaster recovery. Will the added benefits of Kubernetes and containers motive these companies to speed up their transformation to a more modern style? That remains to be seen.

What is clear, though, is that there was a grand strategy in the works with recent VMware purchases like Heptio, Pivotal, and Bitnami. These are all container- and Kubernetes-focused companies (Heptio’s founders, in fact, developed Kubernetes when they worked for Google), and demonstrate that VMware believes that organizations are poised for a transformation that could be similar to that which characterized the move to virtualization back in the days when Diane Greene was calling the shots at VMware.