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Announcing VMware vSphere Integrated Containers and VMware Photon Platform

It’s been a whirlwind few months for us in the Cloud-Native Apps team at VMware.  We announced a number of new projects and products, presented at many conferences and meetups, and engaged with folks in the open source community.  Some of the highlights include:

  • April: We publicly launched the Cloud-Native Apps effort within VMware and announced two new open source projects: Photon OS, a lightweight, container-optimized Linux distro and Lightwave, an authentication and certificate management system for containers and cloud-native apps.
  • May: Project Lightwave source was released on GitHub.
  • June: We announced VMware AppCatalyst, a free desktop hypervisor to accelerate building cloud-native apps, and Project Bonneville, an innovative method of deeply integrating containers into vSphere.  We also joined the Open Container Initiative as founding members.
  • July: We joined the Cloud-Native Computing Foundation as founding members.
  • August: Just last week and this week, we released tech preview 2 for both AppCatalyst and Photon OS.  Check them out!

Today I’m excited to present on main stage at VMworld 2015 on how we’re bringing all of these technologies we’ve previously announced along with new technologies we’re unveiling together into product offerings.  We are introducing two main new product announcements today:

  • vSphere Integrated Containers: vSphere Integrated Containers realizes the “best of both worlds” by providing developers the portability, speed, and agility they love about containers while providing IT Ops the management, security, and visibility they require to run workloads in production.  vSphere Integrated Containers enables IT teams to seamlessly run traditional and containerized workloads side-by-side on existing infrastructure.  It is based on Project Bonneville, Instant Clone, and Photon OS.
  • VMware Photon Platform: Photon Platform is a new infrastructure stack optimized for containers and cloud-native apps.  It’s built to be used in API-driven, multi-tenant, high scale, greenfield environments.  It’s composed of two main components: Photon Machine, a lightweight “microvisor” based on ESX with Photon OS built-in, and Photon Controller, a distributed high-scale control plane that includes Project Lightwave.  We also announced that we will open source Photon Controller to directly engage with the open source community including developers, customers, and partners to drive increased interoperability and functionality.

Together vSphere Integrated Containers and Photon Platform offer our customers unprecedented choice.  With vSphere Integrated Containers, customers can easily extend their existing vSphere environments to run container-based applications alongside their traditional apps.  For customers building large SaaS apps or other massively distributed apps and looking at greenfield data center architectures, Photon Platform provides all the benefits of a mature and secure hypervisor core with a scalable, distributed, and multi-tenant control plane.  We’re really excited about both of these announcements!

In addition, we made a couple of other announcements today:

  • Pivotal Cloud Foundry and Photon Platform bundle: Pivotal Cloud Foundry is the premiere structured cloud-native app platform and the natural choice for enterprise customers.  We are excited to announce a bundle where customers can easily consume Pivotal Cloud Foundry along with Photon Platform in a simple, well-integrated package.  This end-to-end cloud-native platform is an industry first and we believe the best way to build and run cloud-native applications.  More details to come.
  • Flocker driver for vSphere storage: ClusterHQ’s Flocker is a simple way to manage Docker containers and their data.  Today we announced an integration between Flocker and vSphere, allowing administrators to provide data persistence and other advanced vSphere storage technologies to Docker containers.

If you’re at VMworld this week, there’s a tremendous amount of activity happening around Cloud-Native Apps.  To help you sort through all the options, please take a look at this simple Field Guide we put together.  If you’re in need of a short break, please stop by the VMware Videogame Container System in the Hang Space in Moscone West, Level 2 to play Prince of Persia running on Docker on MS-DOS via vSphere Integrated Containers!

Finally, we expect vSphere Integrated Containers and Photon Platform to be available via a private beta before year end.  If you’re interested in kicking the tires on these products, please reach out to your VMware account team.

Please take a moment to dive into the different things we’re doing, and let us know what you think!  Have fun!

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Two months ago, at Dockercon, VMware introduced Project Bonneville to the world. Today at VMworld, Kit Colbert revealed Bonneville’s coming of age as the core technology powering vSphere Integrated Containers.

The response to Bonneville from our customers has been huge. They absolutely get the value proposition of combining the best of both worlds: The speed, agility and workflow of containers; underpinned by a rock-solid enterprise platform that they already trust.

So in this blog post, I want to look in a little more detail at what the team have been up to in the last couple of months leading up to this announcement today.

When we last demoed our technology, we showed how it can turn an ESX host into a Docker host and explained how containers could be easily provisioned as lightweight VMs. At that time we were able to start a Linux containerVM in around 5 seconds, underpinned by a custom tiny “Photon Pico” and we demonstrated a fledgling MS-DOS port we threw together in a 48-hour hackathon. We talked about the benefits of Instant Clone in being able to share the memory of a Linux kernel between the containers without any of the disadvantages of having to actually share it. We also highlighted the portability aspects by driving Bonneville from a vanilla Docker client and showing simple Swarm and Compose integration.

Well, we promised that better was to come and today’s announcement is just another step along the way of being faster, lighter and more dynamic.

vSphere Integrated Containers takes one of the most fundamental and valuable precepts of virtualization and applies it to containers. I like to call it “exploding the Linux container host”. The virtualization revolution brought flexible, abstract, dynamic resource boundaries to compute – carving up commodity hardware into simple fungible assets. Now we’re doing the same for containers with the “Virtual Container Host” concept.

The Virtual Container Host

Anyone remember what we dealt with before virtualization? Statically sized pieces of compute running a single OS that had to be shut down to be patched or reconfigured. But wait a second, isn’t that kind of what a container host is, even when it’s running in a VM? In some cases, such as the Kubernetes pod model this makes sense in that it’s a very intentional pre-allocation of boundaries around containers that naturally belong together. However that model presupposes that we know ahead of time exactly what containers we’re provisioning and in what configuration. In many cases we don’t know this and our not knowing forces us to make guesses that can result in wasted resource, painful reconfigurations and in the worst case, container hosts that become pets, not cattle.

The Virtual Container Host is a Container endpoint with completely dynamic boundaries. vSphere resource management handles container placement within those boundaries, such that a virtual Docker host could be an entire vSphere cluster one moment and a fraction of the same cluster the next. The only resource consumed by a container host in the cluster is the resource consumed by running containers.

Reconfiguration of the VCH is completely transparent to the containers running in it and the VCH imposes no conceptual limitations on the kernel version or even operating system that the containers are running. It never needs to be patched, upgraded or maintained because it’s an entirely abstract concept. As such, VCHs could also be nested, giving a team access to a large VCH from which smaller VCHs could be sub-allocated for individuals.

vSphere vSAN offers fantastic opportunities for shared storage for the VCH, whether it’s persistent volumes, a consolidated image cache or dynamic horizontal scale-out. vSphere’s networking capabilities bring further opportunities for secure and dynamic networking such that container management traffic, application traffic and networked storage could all be isolated from one another.

In addition to all that, we’ve driven down Linux Container start time down to under 2 seconds while retaining the full BIOS of the VM, allowing us to further extend our portfolio of compatible operating systems. If you want an opportunity to experience the thrill of seeing an A:\> prompt come up from a docker run, come by the VMware Videogame Container System area (Hang Space, Moscone West, Level 2) and interact with it in person. If you want the fizzing sensation of seeing a C:\Windows\System32> prompt, come and see one of the team and we’ll happily give you a sneak preview.

In short, the flexibility and power of the vSphere platform, far from being the legacy software of yesteryear, is bringing an unbeatable level of sophistication and simplicity to the foundations of the container ecosystem that we’re all very excited about.

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Today we’re announcing the Technology Preview 2 of VMware AppCatalyst – a desktop hypervisor for developers. We’ve fixed a few bugs and added some features towards making AppCatalyst the developers hypervisor of choice. As with the original preview, the updated version will continue to be free. You can download the latest version from http://getappcatalyst.com

AppCatalyst now supports virtual machines with any flavor of Linux, BSD and Solaris. By leveraging the same code that ships in Fusion, Workstation and vSphere, we are able to bring you a fast and robust hypervisor with everything that a developer will need. If you are looking for a hypervisor with more advance functionality such as 3D graphics support, virtual USB support and Windows guest support, you are welcome to upgrade to Fusion (Fusion 8 was launched earlier this week).

With this release we’ve updated the Photon OS distribution that comes pre-bundled with AppCatalyst. Photon OS is VMware’s compact container host Linux distribution and it saves you a lot of time when you can point docker-machine at it and start up a Photon OS instance without having to download a Linux ISO. We leveraged the REST API in AppCatalyst to create this integration, as an example of showcasing the ease with with a developer can build their own integrations. In addition to the API, AppCatalyst continues to ship with a CLI. Another common use case for a desktop hypervisor is Vagrant and AppCatalyst ships with a vagrant provider so you can start using Vagrant immediately. We continue to work with the community to bring additional integrations to you in the near future.

We’ve also made some improvements to the user experience. AppCatalyst is automatically added to the users path during install. Similarly we’ve revamped our download site to ensure that you can get straight to the bits and easily access our community and documentation.

Our long term goal is to turn AppCatalyst into a data center on the desktop and towards that goals, we are announcing experimental support for ESXi in AppCatalyst. We are hopeful that this gets you one step closer to be able to run your data center programs and utilities on your desktop.

Please visit our new AppCatalyst page and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you @getappcatalyst and @cloudnativeapps.

More information:
Download VMware AppCatalyst
Join the VMware AppCatalyst community
More on VMware Cloud-Native Apps

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Karthik

In June, we announced the release of VMware AppCatalyst, a local development environment ready to support container- and microservices-based workflows out of the box. AppCatalyst is not only free for download (no registration required!), but ships with our lightweight, container-ready Photon OS and a Vagrant provider so developers can immediately get to work building cloud-native applications. Today, HashiCorp is releasing an easy walkthrough to get started developing with AppCatalyst – today marks the first of two lessons on this topic.

AppCatalyst and the developer environment is of course, only the starting point for any application or feature making it out into the world. The work of any individual developer has to be continuously – and ideally automatically – tested and merged with the work of others, and seamlessly deployed to an elastic infrastructure in production. This DevOps work makes it easy to pull code from developers and deploy to market, and is for businesses whose competitive edge relies on iterating quickly for their users.

We realize though, that DevOps is an evolving culture and process for many of our customers. The interactive curriculum with HashiCorp is designed to guide and introduce AppCatalyst users through the beginning of the DevOps lifecycle. We’ve of course worked with HashiCorp before – they’ve been a key partner in some of our prior announcements – we’re pleased to keep working with them on making deployments easy, from developer desktop to production stack.

We encourage you to check the new curriculum out today, and please don’t hesitate to provide feedback to us (@cloudnativeapps). And if you’re still curious about how VMware is supporting DevOps in the enterprise, you can also check out our new DevOps @ VMworld program (hope to see you there, as well).

About the Author: Karthik Narayan is a Product Manager for the Cloud-Native Apps team at VMware, and works on AppCatalyst