Of course, you could also interpret both projects as reflections of VMware’s wariness of containers. By creating its own container-related projects, VMware can make sure there’s a container environment that’s compatible with its products and with its long-term vision for the network.
Take, for example, Project Photon, one of the two projects being announced today. It’s a variety of Linux tailored for containers, VMware says. One key difference from other Linux OS distributions is that Photon specifically supports VMware’s hypervisor and will keep in step with VMware’s ideas for the software-defined data center, says Mike Adams, director of product marketing for VMware’s Cloud Platform business unit.
Photon can also serve as a soapbox of sorts, because it creates a “fast track” for implementing VMware’s other container-related ideas, Adams says.
VMware’s other new project, Lightwave, aims to create identity and access management for containers. Other open source projects are addressing this problem, but VMware wants to make sure there’s a production-ready project out there.
Cloud Native Applications
Both projects come from VMware’s Cloud-Native Applications Team, newly created to help application developers move their ideas off the desktop and into the data center. The group will also target the operations side of cloud-based applications, which is where security and Project Lightwave come in.
The team and the open source projects all tie into VMware’s professed love of containers. On paper, it’s possible that containers could eventually replace virtual machines, but VMware is among the camp that thinks the two entities can work together. At VMworld in August, the company put forth the idea of running containers inside virtual machines, taking advantage of the virtual-machine setup and storage connectivity that come for free when a virtualization environment is already installed.
Obviously, VMware has the virtualization environment down. Now it’s addressing the container environment.
Photon is a container runtime for vSphere — meaning, it’s a version of Linux pared down to the needs of containers. It will support multiple container types, including Docker, of course — but the container runtime it will ship with is rkt, developed by CoreOS. CoreOS has suggested a container architecture that it claims is more lightweight than Docker.
Project Lightwave takes a wider view, addressing security. As more applications move to the cloud and become more distributed, they become harder to secure. Lightwave’s role would be to keep an eye on all the containers involved in a particular application.
“A lot of it has to do with the sheer number of components” involved in cloud applications, Adams says. “In the world of containers, they have hundreds if not thousands of containers out there, and they need to check if these containers can run on a specific host and whether these containers are trusted.”
Lightwave’s foundation will be the security elements VMware has infused into other products, Adams says.
Project Photon, being released on a GPL version 2 license, is slated to be available on GitHub today. Lightwave, which is based on an Apache 2.0 license, is due to appear on GitHub later this quarter.