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VMware reacts to the cloud and containerisation

At VMworld Europe, VMware restates products and roadmap visions that see it react to the perceived inevitability of the cloud, while also getting a grip on containers

VMworld Europe 2015’s big slogan is “Ready for Any”. Its aim is to convey that VMware can provide agility that can react to any business challenge.

At the same time, it also seems to convey that VMware is in reactive mode to trends in IT that threaten to outstrip it, namely the rise of the hybrid cloud and containerisation.

Where VMware once offered cutting edge, virtualising physical server-based environments – giving huge efficiencies in doing so – it now appears to be reacting to innovation that comes from elsewhere.

In keynote speeches, VMware restated recently announced products and product sets aimed at helping customers deal with these new environments.

In his keynote, president and chief operating officer Carl Eschenbach identified three key challenges as seen by VMware, which were namely about the rise of cloud in potentially siloed forms – private, public and managed; another potential split between traditional and cloud native apps; and a proliferation in device hardware format.

Taken together, a key cloud-related challenge for the coming period for customers – and by implication for VMware – is to be able to run any application on or off-premises and across any device, according to Eschenbach. Cue another slogan: “One cloud, one app, any device”.

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In response, Eschenbach reiterated the announcement made in August 2015 at VMworld in San Francisco of the Unified Hybrid Cloud infrastructure, which aims to deliver a set of products that can help bring about unification across customers’ private and public cloud environments.

The second key challenge identified by chief technology officer and chief development officer Ray O’Farrell is the rise of containerisation, which allows multiple applications to run discretely on one operating system and can bring efficiencies over server virtualisation technologies. This is an area VMware also wants to be involved in.

The VMware view is that where currently a developer may generate containers and run them in a physical or virtual machine, there is no need for them to be run on a one container/one VM basis. This can lead to issues of visibility, management, security and tool compatibility, with different views of the container from developer and VM admin points of view, said O’Farrell.

In response, VMware launched vSphere Integrated Containers, which introduced an operating system (OS) called Photon, with containers managed in a 1:1 VM framework called a jeVM (just enough Virtual Machine).

The platform comprises the Photon Controller, which is a host controller for Photon Machines – so-called “microvisors” based on ESX and presumably host guest containers.

The Photon Controller will be open source, while the Photon Platform will be available on a subscription model.

However, with this emphasis on the cloud, what role does VMware see itself in?

At the event VMware executives responded to questions about its future following the recent Dell purchase of EMC and on what extent VMware sees itself directly competing with Amazon’s cloud operations.

Eschenbach said VMware would “not focus on building a platform to provide a one-way destination”.

“It is not a case of if, but when customers move to the cloud, so we’ll be there to provide a safe journey. We’re focused on enterprise-class customers moving to on-premise and off-premise cloud. We compete with Amazon in some areas, but no one can do hybrid like us,” he said.

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To stay relevant in this space, VMware is going to need to pick up the pace of releases. It'll be interesting if they reveal any customer-centric data at DockerCon in June. 
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