BARCELONA: VMware is preparing to release beta versions of products that bring support for containers and microservices to its software stack, enabling customers to take advantage of new cloud-native development approaches for building and operating highly scalable services.
VMware first detailed vSphere Integrated Containers and the VMware Photon Platform at the VMworld event in San Francisco in September, but the firm has announced at VMworld Europe that it will make some capabilities available for testing within the next few weeks.
The two platforms differ in that vSphere Integrated Containers is an extension to vSphere for companies that have already invested heavily in VMware-based infrastructure, and allows them to manage containers alongside virtual machines. The Photon Platform, in contrast, is aimed at new-build infrastructure that is focused entirely on highly scalable cloud-native applications.
Both cases see VMware putting a container inside a virtual machine to retain the benefits of virtual machines, such as hardware enforced isolation for security.
This could have proved clumsy and cumbersome, but VMware claims that it has made its virtual machines as lightweight as possible by using Photon OS, a custom version of Linux designed solely for hosting containers, and makes use of the Instant Clone feature introduced in vSphere 6 to provision a new virtual machine very quickly. Photon OS is now available on GitHub.
"One container per virtual machine. Is that really efficient? The answer is yes," said Kit Colbert, vice president of cloud-native apps at VMware, during a keynote address at VMworld.
"Photon OS is just 25MB in size, making it super lightweight, and with Instant Clone we can power on a virtual machine in less than one second. We call it ‘just enough virtualisation'."
VMware chose this approach because it makes containers visible and manageable using the same tools already used for managing virtual machines, Colbert explained, whereas deploying multiple containers inside a traditional virtual machine can cause security problems because it is "difficult to secure everything when you can't see what's going on inside that VM".
Meanwhile, the Photon Platform starts again almost from scratch, using a lightweight "microvisor" that is a stripped down version of VMware's familiar ESX hypervisor, but which cuts out all features deemed unnecessary for operating containers, such as vMotion.
The Photon Platform will include the Photon Controller, a distributed controller and scheduler for containers running inside Photon OS virtual machines, and Project Lightwave, a lightweight access control tool to provide authentication.
"Unlike vCenter, you can have multiple instances of Photon Controller, making it easier to scale out a container deployment," said Michael Paiko, VMware's senior manager for cloud-native apps at VMware.
Photon Controller is being released as open source within the next few weeks, while the Photon Platform will be available under subscription licensing once commercially available.
VMware also plans to release the Photon Platform bundled with Pivotal's Cloud Foundry app platform. Both are set to be available as private betas shortly, with public betas expected in early 2016 and general availability sometime later next year.
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