VMware Embraces Kubernetes in Container Push

VMware is the latest IT vendor to support Kubernetes, the open-source container management system that Google developed.

VMware, Kubernetes

VMware announced on Oct. 18 at its VMworld 2016 Europe event that it is now supporting the Kubernetes container management system on the VMware Photon platform.

Kubernetes is an open-source project that was developed by Google and today benefits from the contributions of a diverse community, including Red Hat and CoreOS. The Kubernetes project became part of the Linux Foundation's Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) in July 2015. The Kubernetes 1.4 release debuted on Sept. 26 with added security features.

"We have now built a Kubernetes-as-a-service capability into Photon Platform," Jared Rosoff, chief technologist for cloud native apps at VMware, told eWEEK.

The overall Photon effort at VMware has been under development since April 2015, when the company first announced Photon OS, a Linux operating system for container deployment that runs as a guest on a VMware ESX virtualization hypervisor. The Photon OS reached its 1.0 milestone in June. In addition to Photon OS, the Photon Platform includes the Photon Controller, providing a control plane for container deployment, Rosoff explained.

"With Kubernetes as a service on top of Photon, the Photon Controller is able to spin up the necessary virtual machines and disks to build a dedicated Kubernetes cluster on demand for the client," Rosoff said.

Once the Kubernetes cluster is deployed, users can use any standard Kubernetes command for control and management. VMware has worked on enabling automated provisioning of Kubernetes and isolation elements for workloads, Rosoff said.

The networking element of the Kubernetes as a service on Photon effort is using the flannel networking overlay. Flannel is an open-source effort that CoreOS, one of the leading contributors to Kubernetes, originated. The use of flannel is an initial effort, and there is a development road map to bring VMware's NSX virtual networking technology to the Kubernetes service.

"We've actually built a plug-in to Kubernetes that looks at the labels that are attached to pods inside of a Kubernetes namespace, and it will be able to automatically create network segments based on those labels," Rosoff said. "That's work that isn't quite integrated into Photon yet, but it will be soon."

The Photon Platform is one element of VMware's overall container support plans. VMware also has a technology called vSphere Integrated containers that has a different focus. Rosoff explained that vSphere Integrated containers is all about bringing a container runtime to vSphere. At VMworld 2016 Europe, VMware is also announcing an updated release of vSphere on Oct. 18. With vSphere Integrated Containers, VMware developers have mapped the Docker API onto vSphere constructs, Rosoff said.

"The Photon effort is being developed completely in parallel, but it's a different platform," Rosoff said.

With Photon, VMware is building a different model for container workload management. With vSphere, users typically rely on VMware's vCenter technology for management, and in Photon Platform that's not the case.

"Photon Controller essentially replaces vCenter as the control plane for a cluster," Rosoff said.

If an organization chooses to use the Photon Platform in one part of its data center and vSphere Integrated Containers in another, workloads can't directly migrate or use vMotion to move easily from one platform to the other, Rosoff said.

VMware has worked to de-couple its vSAN virtual storage technology from vCenter to help enable new storage capabilities for Photon Platform.

"We now have a version of vSAN that can be deployed with Photon Controller without any of the vCenter components," Rosoff said. "That basically allows organizations to create a hyper-converged storage array out of all the disk drives on the systems that power the Photon cluster."

VMware plans to make the Photon Platform generally available by the end of the year. To date, the open-source code for the Photon Platform has been available for organization to preview and try out on GitHub.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.