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By James Zabala, Senior Product Manager for Cloud-Native Apps at VMware

tl;dr We’re releasing Photon Controller v0.8 today — a major release with significant improvements. Want to get started right away? Check out the wiki on GitHub.

Photon Controller is an infrastructure stack purposefully-built for cloud-native applications. It is a distributed, high-scale control plane for multi-tenant deployments designed from the ground-up to address the need for elasticity, high churn and self-healing.

Photon Controller was announced at VMworld in 2015 and, in the spirit of VMware’s cloud-native initiatives, subsequently open sourced on November 16th, 2015.

With significant progress on the project in the three months since we open sourced Photon Controller, we’re thrilled to announce the release of v0.8 — a major milestone in the development of Photon Controller. While November’s release was targeted at demonstrating the features available on the platform on a small scale, we’ve poured our development efforts into building a robust and scalable foundation for your critical cloud-native workloads.

The v0.8 release, found on our GitHub repository, really shines in manageability and maturity:

  • Support for Real-World Deployments – The Photon Controller installer supports real-world deployments on ESXi hosts. You can carve up your fleet of hypervisors, setting aside hosts dedicated to your distributed control-plane with the remainder running your cloud-native workloads.
  • User Interface – We now have both an Installer and Management UI, making the process of deploying and managing Photon Controller on ESXi hosts in large-scale, production-like environment easy.
  • Upgrade – We’ve built a robust and seamless upgrade process ensuring that you can upgrade to v0.8 (and subsequent releases) with ease. If you’ve ever upgraded a distributed cloud platform you’re likely familiar with the significant pain points. The Photon Controller upgrade process incurs minimal downtime (as short as several minutes) and can be performed in a handful of CLI commands or API calls.
  • Scalability – We’re constantly challenging ourselves to improve scalability. As of today Photon Controller scales to thousands of hosts and hundreds of thousands of objects. We’ve successfully scale tested a 200-node Kubernetes cluster (on-par with Google Container Engine’s limits) and a 700-node Mesos cluster. At the moment our scalability testing is hardware limited.
  • Multi-image Datastore – We no longer require a shared datastore amongst your CLOUD nodes (such as NFS or FC). Instead, Photon Controller will automatically replicate images to the appropriate local datastores for you.
  • Statistics with Graphite / Grafana – Operationalizing clouds can be difficult if you’re flying blind. Photon Controller uses Graphite to gather statistics from your management plane and cloud hosts to give you the visibility you need to feel confident running a large cloud.

Perhaps most exciting, however, is the work going into our future v1.0 release. We’re working hard to address fleet management and authentication. We are improving things “under the hood,” too. We’re vastly simplifying our scheduler with the goal of increasing scalability and performance. Beyond v1.0 we’re looking at deep integrations with both NSX and VSAN to address the need for network microsegmentation and persistent storage in a containerized environment.

The engineering effort in the last three months has been nothing short of monumental: 36 developers committed over 750 patches. We’re serious about open source, too. In addition to developing completely in the open (all commits land in the develop branch) we’re opening up our Pivotal Tracker. The world can now see how we’re prioritizing our engineering efforts.

Our releases use semantic versioning, with v0.8 representing an almost feature-complete release. The v0.8 release also signifies that we’re getting closer to being comfortable calling our release “production ready.” Thus while we encourage users to deploy Photon Controller and discover its robust capabilities, it’s best to hold off on running production workloads until the v1.0 release.

Getting started with Photon Controller is simple: check out our GitHub wiki — there’s a plethora of information on how to deploy and manage the platform with more on the way.

We would love to get your feedback — negative or positive — as we progress towards a v1.0 release. There are numerous ways to reach us, all listed on our GitHub wiki. It’s only by understanding how you — devops engineers, cloud architects, developers building applications on our platform, and hackers who love to tinker with the latest open source bits — are using the project that we can aim improve it.

If you are inclined to help improve Photon Controller, whether by writing documentation or code, feel free to ping us on GitHub — we love collaborating!