How VMware Now Supports Microservices Container Development

By using their existing software-defined data center, VMware users will now be able to run container-based applications alongside existing virtual machine-based workloads in production without having to build out a separate, specialized container infrastructure stack.

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It took some doing and a few years of development, but VMware now supports microservices container development right out of its vSphere Cloud Foundation box.

Thought you’d never see the day? Well, it's here.

Yes, VMware's hypervisor and virtual machines compete directly against these open-source-based containers being offered by companies such as Docker, Red Hat, CoreOS, Mesosphere, Chef, Puppet, Shippable, AppDynamics, HashiCorp, IBM and others. But VMware smartly has decided to join the party rather than to force its market-leading platform down customers' throats and stubbornly fight against the rising tide.

For the record: A container image is a lightweight, stand-alone, executable package of a piece of software that includes everything needed to run it: code, runtime, system tools, system libraries, settings. They are available for both Linux- and Windows-based apps. Containerized software will always run the same, regardless of the environment.

Containers isolate software from its surroundings; for example, differences between development and staging environments and help reduce conflicts between teams running different software on the same infrastructure.

Enables Containers, Conventional Apps to Run Side-by-Side

VMware Cloud Foundation 2.3, which now includes vSphere Integrated Containers and was released to general availability Dec. 5, provides essential enterprise container infrastructure to help IT operations run both conventional and containerized applications side-by-side on a common platform.

By using their existing software-defined data center, VMware users will now be able to run container-based applications alongside existing virtual machine-based workloads in production without having to build out a separate, specialized container infrastructure stack.

Will that introduce a lot of new complexities? VMware says no, but there's no better way to find out than trying it out yourself in a test/dev environment.

The new release of vSphere Integrated Containers was made available to testers in September. It introduced significant new capabilities, including the ability to provision native Docker container hosts, major security enhancements and a unified management portal.

Major Upgrade for vSphere

This is a major product upgrade for VMware, whose hypervisor/virtual machine system is a global de facto standard. But the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company was seeing its superstar franchise product being nibbled to death by more and more new-generation enterprise developers who clearly saw the advantages containers bring to the table: speed of deployment, easy creation and deletion, agile development capabilities, less expense—and all without the need for a hypervisor.

That trend, by the way, continues to gain momentum at all kinds of enterprises.

VMware was dedicated to the appeasement of these developers—especially those who were already their customers. The first product the company released in this genre was two-and-a-half years ago, in April 2015, when VMware launched a couple of open source-based products, Project Lightwave and Project Photon. These essentially served as "cradles" for containers running cloud-native apps supplied by competitors such as Docker and colleagues like Pivotal (which, like VMware, is owned by EMC). VMware’s hypervisor, of course, was still necessary for management.

VMware, by the way, liked eWEEK’s “cradle” description well enough to use it in some of its own marketing material.

Because VMware didn't get into the container business quickly enough three to four years ago, the next-best thing for it to do was to make them functional inside its vSphere system using those add-ons. Now add-ons won’t be necessary.

What’s Included in vSphere Integrated Containers 

vSphere Integrated Containers, now included in vSphere Cloud Foundation, includes the following three major components that enables VMware users to deliver a production-ready enterprise container solution to their development teams.

  • vSphere Integrated Container Engine: Docker Remote API-compatible engine is deeply integrated into vSphere for instantiating container images that are run as VMs.
  • Container Management Portal: Portal for apps teams to manage the container repositories, images, hosts, and running container instances.
  • Container Registry: Securely stores container images with built-in RBAC and image replication.

There’s more. VMware Cloud Foundation 2.3 also features vRealize Automation 7.3, which delivers built-in container management capabilities including support for:

  • Admiral 1.1, VMware's highly scalable and lightweight container management portal;
  • Managing and deploying Docker hosts; and
  • Docker volumes enabling users to create and attach volumes to containers.

For more information on vRealize Automation and its containers capabilities, go here.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...