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Red Hat-VMware rivalry intensifies with OpenShift virtualisation

New virtualisation features in OpenShift point to an emerging Kubernetes platform war between Red Hat and VMware

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Red Hat has baked in virtualisation features in OpenShift amid the growing rivalry between the open source bigwig and virtualisation giant VMware to draw enterprises to their respective Kubernetes platforms.

During its virtual summit this week, Red Hat said the virtualisation capabilities, derived from the upstream KubeVirt open source project, will enable enterprises to develop, deploy and manage applications running in virtual machines (VMs) alongside container and serverless deployments.

Traditional VM-based workloads, including those that run on VMware infrastructure, can be added to new and existing applications in OpenShift, where they can then be decomposed into microservices on containers over time or maintained as VMs.

This can be done via an Import Virtual Machine wizard, so that VMs, and the applications running on them, can be migrated from VMware vSphere, Red Hat virtualisation, and Red Hat OpenStack directly to OpenShift.

Frank Feldmann, vice-president at Red Hat’s office of technology in Asia-Pacific, said during a media briefing on 29 April that OpenShift virtualisation will be useful to telcos that are looking to containerise virtual network functions (VNFs) and run them alongside other containerised applications.

Of course, it means they will cut away the VMware management layer, just as they would cut away Red Hat’s virtual machine management layer and we have a reasonable business there too. But it’s the right thing to do
Frank Feldmann, Red Hat

“Not every VNF is ready to be containerised for commercial or technical reasons,” said Feldmann. “This allows us to bring one platform that is fully container-oriented to a telco customer and enables VNFs to temporarily run as virtual machines in a containerised environment.

“From a telco perspective, you can start to adopt new management policies and practices, without being held back by virtual machines that are stuck in a different management paradigm.”

Feldmann was reticent on whether Red Hat’s latest move was aimed at VMware, which has centred its Kubernetes strategy around the Tanzu portfolio that lets enterprises build, run and manage containerised applications on VMware infrastructure in the datacentre and on public cloud.

“We are taking aim at VMware, but we don’t take aim at competitors in the sense that we listen to customers and respond to them,” said Feldmann. “Our customers, particularly our 1,700 OpenShift customers, have been saying they would really like to have a single control plane… and that’s the main reason we’re doing it.

“Of course, it means they will cut away the VMware management layer, just as they would cut away Red Hat’s virtual machine management layer, and we have a reasonable business there too. But it’s the right thing to do.”

Still, the rivalry between Red Hat and VMware looks set to intensify, going by the comparisons made by Red Hat’s senior vice-president for cloud platforms, Ashesh Badani, on their respective Kubernetes playbooks.

Badani said: “Both companies agree that Kubernetes is the future, which is great. But one company has been shipping Kubernetes for five years with over 1,700 customers, and the other is just starting.

“One company has a single CNCF [Cloud Native Computing Foundation] standard Kubernetes stack, and the other is still trying to figure out which of the three Kubernetes stacks, some of which are proprietary, to offer to their customers.

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“One company has a hybrid cloud strategy that is natively integrated in all the major public clouds and it’s available today, and the other requires proprietary infrastructure in each cloud and won’t be available widely until next year.

“One company has a broad set of integrated application services and certified with hundreds of ISVs [independent software vendors], while the other is only focused on a rebranded application strategy from a previously failed model.

“One company is taking a modern cloud-native platform approach to converging containers and VM workloads in Kubernetes. The other is wrapping proprietary Kubernetes-like APIs [application programming interfaces] around their legacy virtualisation platform.”

But to enterprises such as Singapore’s DBS Bank, it is not a choice of one Kubernetes platform over another. The VMware customer uses both Cloud Foundry and OpenShift as its application platforms.

“We think the universe is big enough for a couple of players to co-exist,” DBS’s group CIO, Jimmy Ng, told Computer Weekly recently. “A multi-supplier strategy has always been part of our approach because technology moves so fast.

“There’s no such thing as winners or losers because, at some point, a particular technology will become dominant, and the rest will catch up eventually. So, using a diverse set of technologies will give us the best innovation from leading suppliers and, as others improve, we can still reap the benefits of their improvements.”

VMware declined to comment for this story.

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