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VMware Goes All-In On Containers

New VMware products elevate containers from an afterthought to a primary vehicle for application delivery.

container launched on bare metal, but it's a huge decrease from what the container in a virtual machine used to require: many seconds or even minutes.

Asked during the pre-keynote briefing why VMware was so far behind the widespread developers' march toward containers, Ray O'Farrell, VMware's CTO and chief development officer, took exception to the question. "We are far from behind. Our job is to solve real world problems ... the solution needs to be real and be compatible with the IT manager's existing technology." Its answer is vSphere Integrated Containers, the version of vSphere that uses Virtual Container Hosts, which became available Monday, Aug. 31.

VMware also made available a second approach to containers from within the virtualized data center, the Photon Platform, a software stack optimized to run containers. The new product includes Photon Machine, a lightweight hypervisor or "microvisor" derived from ESX Server. It has the 25-MB Photon operating system built in. The platform also consists of the Photon Controller, a distributed control plane that includes identity and access management, derived from VMware's Project Lightwave.

Colbert said VMware plans to make Photon Controller open source to engage with developers and customers already using open source code to establish their container environments. Photon Platform has both an API and a command line interface to allow developer access.

Colbert said VMware hasn't invented a new container distribution system. On the contrary, it is willing to use Apache Mesos, Docker Swarm, or Google-sponsored Kubernetes with its Photon Platform.

VMware also announced EVO Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC EVO), a follow-up to its EVO Rail hyperconverged, private cloud appliance (the enlarged version of EVO Rail formerly known as EVO Rack). While EVO Rail is "a mid-market appliance" for customers who want to convert part of the data center into a private cloud, EVO SDDC is "a data center-wide system," said Fathers, and can be used to span as many server racks as required.

VMware officials fit the new products into the company's overall approach of trying to help customers achieve a hybrid cloud style of operation. Containers are part of efficient data center operations, they acknowledged, and offer a useful way to move workloads around. Now it's up to customers to use vSphere in the manner they choose, as a virtual machine and container host, capable of communicating with the VMware vCloud Air public service.