VMware recently updated its vSphere Integrated Containers (VIC) platform with a few additions that while admittedly “minor” continue to show how the company is pivoting toward the container market.
The latest VIC updates are mostly focused on improving the user experience through the creation of a Virtual Container Host (VCH).
Paul Dul, vice president of product management for cloud-native applications at VMware, noted one of the updates is a wizard that simplifies the creation of a VCH. He explained that the previous version required an extensive command line interface that “presented a lot of opportunities for input errors.”
The updates also extend an existing plugin client that allows a user to create or delete VCHs from the host client interface.
Dul described the updates as minor, but said that the company will make bigger moves later this year.
VMware launched VIC in late 2016. VIC allows organizations to run containers in the vSphere environment within a VM.
Running a container inside of a VM might seem like a half-step into the world of containers, but Dul explained that a lot of enterprise customers have become comfortable with VMs and want to maintain that level of comfort and control when using containers.
The VIC launch was VMware’s first significant move into the burgeoning container space. However, some analysts thought VMware was still “underplaying” the threat containers could have on its business.
“Given the efficiency and license cost benefits of running containers in bare-metal environments, and ecosystem advancements in security and management tools, we could see a growing amount of VM-free container deployments, particularly in the public cloud, within a few years,” noted Cowen and Company analyst Gregg Moskowitz in a report last year.
That security concern included a report from Gartner that found 90 percent of enterprises expected container deployments to be as secure as VMs by 2019.
“While we believe that this timeline is aggressive, the developing security and management toolset ecosystem clearly makes containers a more viable standalone prospect for enterprise apps,” Moskowitz added.
However, VMware managed to alter that narrative with some partnerships. At its VMworld 2017 event it announced a partnership with subsidiary Pivotal and Google in launching Pivotal Container Service (PKS). The platform is designed to help customers to deploy and manage Kubernetes on premises.
Dul noted that VMware’s approach to containers and Kubernetes is to use as pure a version of the container orchestrator as possible. He explained the company does do testing of the Kubernetes code, citing the firm’s Kubernetes conformance certification, but beyond that it takes a hands-off approach.
Dul, who is also responsible for PKS, said VMware’s focus on tapping its strength in VMs is a key point in dealing with the growing complexity of container orchestration. This includes the notion that VMs and containers both have a place in the enterprise container ecosystem.
“People were thinking containers were a replacement for VMs,” Dul said. “But a vast majority have now seen that there’s a place for both. We see the two as being complementary. They operate on different layers of the stack providing different layers of functionality.”
Highlighting the security issue touched on by the Gartner survey, Dul said VMs still provide greater security. They are also better at abstracting the hardware and elevating the work that needs to be done through the stack.
Keith Bachman, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets, said the PKS announcement should help growth for VMware.
“We believe hypervisors can be optimized to run containers more efficiently, and the management stack will need to be reworked for the container world,” Bachman noted in a report. “We believe [VMware] is trying to build a container-friendly infrastructure for the data center and multiple clouds and potentially pull into [VMware] environments.”
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