Why VMware Is Acquiring Heptio and Going All In for Kubernetes

NEWS ANALYSIS: VMware is positioning itself to be a leader in the next generation of the cloud, enabling multicloud with Kubernetes-based technology.

Kubernetes Heptio

VMware is the company that did more than perhaps any other to help usher in the era of enterprise server virtualization that has been the cornerstone of the last decade of computing. Now VMware once again is positioning itself to be a leader, this time in the emerging world of Kubernetes-based, cloud-native application infrastructure.

On Nov. 6, VMware announced that it is acquiring privately held Kubernetes startup Heptio, in a deal that could help further cement VMware's position as a cloud-native leader. Heptio was launched in 2016 by the co-founders of Kubernetes, Craig McLuckie and Joe Beda, in an effort to make Kubernetes more friendly to use for enterprises. Financial terms of the deal have not been publicly disclosed, though Heptio has raised $33.5 million in venture funding.

VMware's acquisition of Heptio comes a week after IBM announced its massive $34 billion deal for Red Hat. While Heptio is a small startup, the core of what IBM was after in Red Hat is similar to what VMware is seeking with Heptio, namely a leg up in the Kubernetes space to enable the next generation of the cloud.

The Kubernetes market has grown quickly, especially given that the technology is just over 4 years old. On the occasion of Kubernetes’ fourth birthday, Beda explained in an eWEEK video how the cloud landscape has changed and evolved with Kubernetes.

Heptio's product portfolio includes the company's distribution of Kubernetes, as well as multiple open-source projects including the Ksonnet configuration, Ark disaster recovery and Sonobuoy diagnostics projects. 

As to why Heptio decided to sell to VMware, it's all about scale.

"Our mission has been to make an upstream open rendition of Kubernetes ubiquitously available in a multicloud world," McLuckie said during a press call announcing the deal. "Obviously, the set of resources that we can bring to bear as a 2-year-old startup is at a certain level, whereas when you look at an organization like VMware, they have led the enterprise through disruptive transformation that's not all that dissimilar from this new cloud-native change."

Kubernetes at VMware

VMware wasn't a stranger to Kubernetes prior to Heptio and already has its Pivotal Container Service (PKS) in market. PKS was announced in August 2017 as a collaboration between Google, VMware and Pivotal. The platform has been updated and expanded in the year since, with the most recent PKS 1.2 update, which was released on Sept. 25. Heptio's technology is set to be folded into PKS, providing further usability and feature enhancements.

VMware is also very active in the open-source community that enables Kubernetes. The Kubernetes 1.12 milestone, which was released on Sept. 27, was led by VMware senior staff engineer Tim Pepper. VMware's larger open-source efforts have also expanded in recent years, thanks to the leadership of the company's chief open-source officer, Dirk Hohndel.


Fundamentally the direction that enterprise IT seems to be heading is multicloud. While the term “multicloud” is often used and misused as a marketing term, it is an actual reality. Organizations are using on-premises assets, sometimes aligned as private cloud, as well as more than one public cloud provider.

Managing and orchestrating a consistent set of policies and workflows across on-premises deployments and multiple public cloud providers is not an easy task when each of the different deployment modalities have their own unique set of options. That's where Kubernetes fits in and has truly become the enabler, the glue if you will, that binds the real multicloud together.

With Kubernetes’ capable on-premises infrastructure and the same Kubernetes base available across all public cloud providers, it is possible to manage uniform policy and control in a multicloud way. Red Hat's OpenShift has been a strong early leader in the space, and VMware, with its large on-premises install base, doesn't want to be left behind.

Kubernetes is the key to multicloud, and with Heptio, VMware now has added significant talent and capability to help organizations make multicloud a reality.

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.