​VMware buys into Linux containers with Lightwave and Photon

VMware is now a Linux distributor and invested more than ever in containers.

Once upon a time VMware was all about virtualization. Things have changed. On April 20th, 2015, VMware introduced not only support for containers, Lightwave, but its own container-friendly Linux distribution, Photon.

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VMware now has its own Linux distribution: Photon. -- VMware
VMware's embrace of Linux and containers isn't too much of a surprise. While VMware has been accused of not playing fair with Linux's code in ESX and ESXi, it's long supported Linux. And, while VMware is known for virtualization, last August, the company announced that it was supporting Docker containers. VMware knows that the cloud is taking an ever larger slice of the IT budget and that containers, in addition to virtual machines (VM)s, are helping to drive this movement.

To take advantage of this, VMware is introducing its own Linux and open-source container technology. Here's what we know about them so far.

VMware states that "Lightwave will be the industry's first container identity and access management technology that extends enterprise-ready security capabilities to cloud-native applications." It will do this, under an Apache license, by a "new layer of container security beyond container isolation by enabling companies to enforce access control and identity management capabilities across the entire infrastructure and application stack, including all stages of the application development life-cycle."

That's quite a claim, and the code to back it up is still being put together. Looking ahead, Lightwave will include:

Centralized Identity Management - Project Lightwave will deliver single sign-on, authentication, and authorization using name and passwords, tokens and certificates to provide enterprises with a single solution for securing cloud-native applications.

Multi-tenancy - Project Lightwave's multi-tenancy support will enable an enterprise's infrastructure to be used by a variety of applications and teams.

Open Standards Support - Project Lightwave will incorporate multiple open standards such as Kerberos, LDAP v3, SAML, X.509 and WS-Trust, and is designed to interoperate with other standards-based data-center technologies

This will work in concert with Project Photon. This is VMware's' new, light-weight Linux distribution. Optimized for VMware vSphere and VMware vCloud Air environments, Photon will enable enterprises to run both containers and VMs natively on a single platform, and deliver container isolation when containers run within virtual machines. This Linux will support Docker, CoreOS Rocket, and Pivotal Garden container formats,

Besides supporting Lightwave's containers and security mechanisms, Photon will support both Red Hat's RPM for image-based system versioning, and SUSE's yum-compatible, package-based life-cycle management system.

Photon is available on GitHub as a technology preview today. To compile it, you'll need Ubuntu 14.04 or later. While there is also a GitHub respository for Lightwave, there's no code at this time there.

If this sounds familiar, it should. Like Red Hat with Project Atomic, Canonical with Snappy Ubuntu, and CoreOS, VMware is entering the new market of container-ready light-weight Linux distributions. One difference among these competitors is while Canonical and Red Hat are strongly backing Docker and CoreOS is supporting both Docker and its new native Rocket container formats, VMware is backing three different containers.

Who will win? At this point, it's much too early to even guess. I can only say that businesses that want to invest in containers are going to have many interesting choices.

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