VMware jumps on the container bandwagon through deal with Docker, Google, and Pivotal

Container - generic

VMware is working together with Docker, Google and Pivotal to make sure that container technology works well with its virtualization technology, it said Monday during VMworld 2014. This announcement is a bold move by VMware to push support for Docker containers, which some industry watchers have indicated could possibly pose a threat one day to VMware’s dominance in IT operations.

Through this collaboration, VMware will allow developers and operations staff to use the Docker Engine with the VMware vSphere hypervisor and the company’s vCloud Air environment. The company will also team up with Docker on several open source container projects on the Docker platform and it plans on making sure future Docker projects will integrate well with the rest of the VMware platform.

VMware is also partnering with Google to ensure its Kubernetes container management system can work well with VMware’s software; the company has already been contributing code to that project as well.

Regarding Pivotal, VMware said in an announcement that the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) company has already been using containers in conjunction with virtual machines as part of its application-development platform since 2011.

During the keynote session at VMworld 2014, VMware’s CEO Pat Gelsinger said that VMware’s new container push is called Project Fargo and its purpose is to “enable containers on virtual machines” and will eventually show that running a container in conjunction with a VM will prove to be even more lightweight than running a container on a bare-metal machine.

“We call this containers without compromise,” said Gelsinger.

The spate of container-related announcements highlights the importance VMware sees in containers and how they can affect the company’s bottom line. While containers are essentially lighter-weight versions of virtual machines — in that they don’t require multiple operating systems to be spun out but instead share a host Linux-based OS — the technology is still in its nascent stage. While new tools are seemingly being developed on the Docker platform each week that aim to improve how containers are used in operations, the tools are not quite sophisticated as of yet to handle major workloads like Google or streamline the creation of complex applications that rely on relational or NoSQL databases.

VMware appears to want to show that it is taking containers to the mainstream. Each one of these three container-focussed companies gives VMware a big boost to one day having containers and virtual machines coexist in harmony in all areas of virtualization.

During a press conference after the keynote, Gelsinger explained that while there has been a lot of excitement around containers, enterprises are hesitant to change their underlying infrastructure to accommodate them. With Project Marvin, VMware hopes to appease developers who are attracted to the container trend while also supporting enterprises who don’t want to jump to a new type of IT infrastructure. Gelsinger likened this to how it is integrating with OpenStack to placate developers.

Docker CEO Ben Golub said that he has quickly seen Docker go from a tool being used by developers to being embraced by system administrators and he is even seeing some large banks and government institutions deploying containers as well. The partnership with VMware is a way to bring containers to people who are accustomed to VMware environments.

“You can develop in agile and use all the micro services you want, but you can still deploy around the fifteen-plus years of management experience you get from VMware,” said Golub.

Craig McLuckie, a Google product manager, said that Google has also been using containers and virtual machines together and that the two technologies synced up provides a level of security not found in using containers alone.

“We look at this partnership and collaboration as a way to bring our style of application development to the greater world,” said McLuckie.

Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Shutterstock user nattanan726.

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