VMware is the leader in data center virtualization solutions and is now enthusiastically approaching the Kubernetes ecosystem with a broad product portfolio encompassing core infrastructure as well as multi-cloud solutions under the Tanzu umbrella brand. VMware’s solutions are aimed at transitioning the enterprise from a traditional virtualized infrastructure to a mixed environment made up of virtual machines and cloud-native applications, ready for multi-cloud deployments.
The company is reaching out to a ready market. Enterprises are moving quickly to engage hybrid cloud infrastructures, while showing strong interest in developing multi-cloud strategies over the next two years. VMware’s effort to build a foundation for mixed environments of virtualized and containerized applications in a multi-cloud scenario should appeal to these organizations.
Stated briefly, VMware is working to support vertical and horizontal IT hybridization. It offers a complete, easy-to-upgrade Kubernetes runtime, Tanzu Kubernetes Grid (TKG), with pre-integrated and validated components that can run in the data center, on public clouds and at the edge. The latest version of its core virtualization product, vSphere 7 with Kubernetes, now incorporates TKG. In addition, the VMware Cloud Foundation stack is supported by major and local cloud providers. These offerings enable users to work seamlessly with virtual machines (VMs) and containers, bridging the gap between traditional and developer-driven operations (DevOps). They also allow the enterprise to deploy the same application across on-premises and public cloud infrastructures.
Of particular interest in this area is Tanzu Mission Control, a tool that provides full visibility into Kubernetes clusters in different infrastructures while offering complete, policy-based lifecycle and federation management.
Additionally, the Tanzu portfolio includes elements to support enterprise software development and lifecycle management, including:
- Tanzu Application Service: Acquired in the Pivotal purchase, this application platform enables companies to deploy across all cloud platforms with a consistent developer experience.
- Tanzu Observability: This tool provides a single platform for visibility into all applications in production for faster troubleshooting and remediation.
2. Strategic and Business Considerations
VMware is one of the few IT vendors able to provide a complete, end-to-end technology stack for enterprises embracing new application development models while keeping intact commitments to existing mission-critical infrastructures.
Thanks to its unique approach, VMware enables enterprises of all sizes to establish a single control structure that provides management of virtual and cloud-native stacks, both of them viewed as complementary and integrated with each other. The solution enables developers and administrators to access resources from one side or the other, and to take advantage of the particular features and approaches of the selected environment, while accessing resources on the other side. In doing so, a developer can operate on an application hosted in Kubernetes in a declarative manner and manage VMs similarly to containers, while at the same time the system administrator of the virtualized infrastructure can see and operate with containers in a VM-like fashion.
With Tanzu product portfolio VMware addresses two major issues confronting the adoption of Kubernetes ecosystems in the enterprise:
- Kubernetes maturity: Despite its success, Kubernetes is an immature technology, with many core components still in beta and important interfaces such as Container Storage Interface (CSI) or Container Network Interface (CNI) limited in both functionality and feature consistency. There are risks associated with security as well. VMware reduces the risk to enterprises adopting Kubernetes, by providing a stable and supported Kubernetes runtime alongside tools to simplify deployment and management.
- Kubernetes skills: Kubernetes requires very specific skills, and the complex environment and associated mission-critical applications leave little room for mistakes. VMware boasts a global network of certified VMware system administrators, many of whom will update their certifications to add Tanzu components to their skill set. This support can help organizations manage a seamless transition from a traditional virtualization-only environment to a mixed environment.
For customers that already trust VMware and its ecosystem, Tanzu can expand the reach of this platform to properly support cloud-native applications while sharing the same data center and public cloud resources.
It is also important to note that TKG is supported on old vSphere versions and third-party environments. For vSphere 7, Kubernetes integration goes even deeper thanks to a Kubernetes cluster that is embedded within the hypervisor itself. This Supervisor Cluster streamlines the bridging between the two environments and manages additional TKG clusters. TKG services are integrated in the vSphere 7 UI and the license is included with the hypervisor for VMware Cloud Foundation 4.
3. Technical Considerations
The Tanzu product portfolio is much more than Kubernetes. It includes several tools to simplify software development, with a particular focus on cloud-native applications and their management, as well as services to help enterprises in their journey. Support is another key component, providing assured access to the latest Kubernetes distributions, and the peace of mind that comes with engaging a well-regarded enterprise support service in critical areas such as security.
vSphere 7 directly supports Kubernetes, and Tanzu Mission Control introduces a tremendous operational benefit by helping users control Kubernetes clusters across globally distributed environments. As a result, a VMware customer can count on the same user experience no matter how applications are deployed. This integrated approach minimizes risk associated with the adoption of Kubernetes and simplifies operations. It also enables resources to be shared between VMs and containers to optimize infrastructure efficiency.
VMware provides integration with all other major infrastructure components and virtualization technology in its portfolio. And this integration extends to services needed to properly run containers and cloud-native applications, such as Tanzu Application Catalog, a curated registry service of production-ready, open-source software organized in containers, and Tanzu Service Mesh for microservices networking, visibility, and control.
4. Next Steps
When evaluating Kubernetes, the user should always account for the complexity of the environment and the need to minimize risk in adoption. From this perspective, VMware offers a unique approach, providing an extension and enrichment of functionality that is already available in the enterprise, but is updated to work with next-generation applications. VMware’s approach helps organizations avoid creating another silo, which inevitably leads to additional operational costs.
Finally, it is important to note that even though the excitement for containers and Kubernetes is very high at the moment, we will have to deal with a mixed environment of VMs and containers for a long time, forever probably. Having the ability to control and granularly tune resource consumption, while slowly moving from a VM-dominated environment to containers, will improve overall infrastructure TCO, reduce resource compartmentalization, and smooth provisioning processes. If we consider that most organizations are still at the beginning of their Kubernetes journey, and best practices about how to manage Kubernetes clusters and applications on top of them are not yet consolidated, the flexibility of the VMware approach looks even more compelling.
5. About Enrico SignorettiEnrico Signoretti
Enrico has 25+ years of industry experience in technical product strategy and management roles. He has advised mid-market and large enterprises across numerous industries and software companies ranging from small ISVs to large providers.
Enrico is an internationally renowned visionary author, blogger, and speaker on the topic of data storage. He has tracked the changes in the storage industry as a Gigaom Research Analyst, Independent Analyst and contributor to the Register.
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