​VMware goes container crazy with vSphere integrated containers

You name the container, VMware is bringing it to VMware vSphere.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Container craziness has reached VMware. VMware is partnering with Pivotal to create Photon Platform, an API-centric platform designed for containers running on Pivotal Cloud Foundry and integrating Docker with the VMware ESX hypervisor in VMware vSphere Integrated Containers (VIC).

Ray O'Farrell, VMware's CTO and chief development officer, said in a statement, "Today, VMware is announcing foundational infrastructure that will enable customers to deploy cloud-native applications in production with confidence. Customers will be able to jump start their container initiatives on top of their existing VMware vSphere environments or consume new infrastructure designed specifically for cloud-native applications."

VMware announced VIC at VMworld as a technology preview. It's built on Project Bonneville, which first saw the light of day in June. This is still early-stage technology.

According to Ben Corrie, a senior VMware engineer, VIC combines the best features of containers and hypervisors. "VIC takes one of the most fundamental and valuable precepts of virtualization and applies it to containers. I like to call it exploding the Linux container host. The virtualization revolution brought flexible, abstract, dynamic resource boundaries to compute - carving up commodity hardware into simple fungible assets. Now we're doing the same for containers with the 'Virtual Container Host' concept."

Although VIC was designed to work with Docker, VMware claims that that it "will easily integrate with other container ecosystem solutions including CoreOS Tectonic, Kubernetes, Mesosphere's Data Center Operating System and Cloud Foundry. That's in no small part because of the recent container standardization efforts of the Open Container Project and Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

VMware claims that with vSphere as its foundation, the new offering will help IT operations team meet the following enterprise requirements for containers:

  • Security and Isolation - Assuring the integrity and authenticity of containers and their underlying infrastructure, VIC isolates and starts up each container in a virtual machine with minimal overhead using the Instant Clone feature of VMware vSphere 6.
  • Storage and Data Persistence - While many container services are stateless today, customers want to enable stateful services to support cloud-native databases. VIC will enable provisioning of persistent data volumes for containers in VMware vSphere environments. This will let DevOps teams take advantage of containerized applications with VMware vSphere storage services such as VMware Virtual SAN and VMware vSphere Virtual Volumes-enabled external storage.
  • Networking - VMware NSX supports production container deployments today. With VMware NSX, IT can apply fine-grained network micro-segmentation and policy-based security to cloud-native applications. Additionally, NSX provides IT with greater visibility into the behavior of containers. Finally, with NSX, containers can be integrated with the data center, and can be connected to quarantine, forensics and/or monitoring networks for additional monitoring and troubleshooting.
  • Service-Level Agreements (SLAs) - IT teams will be able to assure service-level agreements for container workloads with VMware vSphere Distributed Resource Scheduler as well as reduce planned and unplanned downtime with VMware vSphere High Availability and VMware vSphere vMotion.
  • Management - Administrators will be able to use VMware vCenter Server to view and manage their containers without the need for new tools or additional training through Project Bonneville, which will enable the seamless integration of containers into VMware vSphere. Customers can achieve consistent management and configuration compliance across private and public clouds using the VMware vRealize Suite.

In short, VMware is trying to show that you can have all the advantages of Linux containers except you'll be using VMware as your base instead of Linux. Will it work? Since VMware uses Linux in ESX and ESXi, it should. At this point, it's only a preview but I can certainly see dyed-in-the-wool VMware users giving it a try.

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