VMware connections to the Kubernetes market


What Tanzu Can Control

Anyone who has ever dealt with the various public cloud providers will be aware that all the major players no longer require their customers to roll out Kubernetes themselves. Instead, AWS, Azure, and others have ready-made Kubernetes resources that can be rolled out completely in their respective environments.

For the moment, it seems that these very resources are Tanzu's primary target group, because as soon as the admin has stored the appropriate credentials, the tool connects to Google, AWS, and Azure and then discovers the clusters that are already running. Launching a new Kubernetes instance with Tanzu is realized by reference to these resources in the respective cloud. The advantage for the admin is obvious: All active instances in the project for which credentials were entered are immediately visible and can be controlled by Tanzu at the push of a button.

Tanzu connects directly to active Kubernetes instances by specifying the Kubernetes API data individually for each instance, which can take some time depending on the head count. Ultimately, however, this use case is not what Tanzu aims for.

VMware obviously will not be happy if only public clouds are meaningfully integrated into its own tool set. That's why VMware is now launching its own Kubernetes products, which of course are just as well integrated in Tanzu – more on this in a moment. I should mention beforehand that the Tanzu GUI is not just designed for Tanzu management. A GUI designed especially for admins and developers satisfies their requirements without manual intervention.

Specifically, this means that if the policy framework is built accordingly, non-admin users can start Kubernetes clusters easily with Tanzu. Additionally, Tanzu is aware of the resource "workload," which leans toward continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) and implies the use of Kubernetes.

Old Friend: Pivotal

Without a doubt, VMware can be regarded as a success story: For decades, the company has maintained solid partnerships with a large number of major technology companies worldwide that translate into economic success. Of course, the VMware executive board is aware that they will not get very far with mere management tools for VMware only.

Even if VMware had the most sophisticated container management system in the world, commercial Kubernetes distributions like OpenShift offer their own GUIs and provide a complete Kubernetes in the vendor's preferred flavor. Customers might want to link this to Tanzu, because it allows the management of various Kubernetes clusters. Undoubtedly, though, they would not be willing to pay the same amount of money that VMware is asking for its virtualization tools.

VMware quickly understood that, when it came to Kubernetes, they had to come out of their shell themselves and get a product up and running quickly. VMware is by no means the only traditional company venturing into the world of Kubernetes. For a few months now, providers that one would never have expected have even been appearing on the market with Kubernetes distributions, such as NetApp.

However, if you expect VMware to build its own distribution for the container orchestrator, you are mistaken. Because VMware is now part of Dell EMC, who has a keen interest in ensuring that VMware remains successful in bringing hardware to the public through this channel, the company boasts well-filled vaults, and they tapped into their savings a few months ago to acquire one of the pioneers in the container industry: Pivotal.

Correspondingly, VMware has two Kubernetes products in the starting blocks today. VMware Essential PKS is aimed at those who want the purest possible Kubernetes. VMware Enterprise PKS, on the other hand, addresses the typical VMware clientele who not only want the solution per se, but also want to integrate with control systems the complete NSX experience and seamless support for the integration of AWS and the like.

VMware Essential PKS stands out from the ranks of VMware products, in that it's closely oriented on the original Kubernetes. Fundamentally, Essential PKS is a basic Kubernetes distribution that doesn't deviate from the standard specifications of the container orchestrator in terms of networking or storage. Moreover, support is available for both the product and applications that can be designed on the basis of the product.

Enterprise PKS

On the other hand, if you're used to no-worry packages, you'll feel more comfortable with the Enterprise PKS version (Figure 2) of the VMware Kubernetes distributions. Just why is illustrated by a look at the ecosystem that VMware likes to build for its customers. Virtualization has long since ceased to be the only factor, and other components play an important role.

Figure 2: Anyone who chooses VMware Enterprise PKS gets Pivotal in a new GUI that is perfectly integrated with NSX and other VMware components. © VMware

For example, the Ceph object store has no sensible way to connect to VMware, but because VMware itself is now active in the cloud and looking to sell scalable solutions to its own clientele, it has an alternative to Ceph – vNAS. This proprietary implementation of seamlessly scalable storage supports hyperconvergence, shaping the disks on each node into a large virtual store from which clients can access all nodes. Importantly, they can do so transparently, at least from the user's point of view. The user simply specifies that a virtual machine (VM) should have persistent storage – they don't need to know how VMware implements the technology in the background.

The situation is similar for the network. If you have the VMware cloud package, you implicitly also have VMware's own SDN solution NSX, which was written by the same authors as Open vSwitch, considered to be a quasi-standard in open source SDN. However, NSX has far more functionality than classic Open vSwitch, and control by vSphere makes it much more versatile. Multicloud approaches are no problem, for example, where the administrator distributes individual parts of the workload to different public clouds or an on-premises cloud. vSphere builds a seamless virtual network between the individual parts of a setup without the administrator having to do anything special.

Anyone who opts for the Enterprise PKS edition of the VMware Kubernetes distribution gets a Kubernetes that is just as perfectly integrated into these systems as a regular VM. In such a setup, Kubernetes integrates with NSX (e.g., with its own plugins) so that multicloud workloads are no problem, even with Kubernetes. If you want the classic VMware experience, you're probably better off with this product. In return, however, the bill from VMware for the combination of product and support will be far larger – although VMware customers may be used to this.

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