VMware Enhances Container Platform

VMware has beefed up the capabilities of its nascent container platform, vSphere Integrated Containers (VIC), with two new features: an enterprise container registry based on Project Harbor and a built-in management console based on Project Admiral. Both are open source projects, as is the container platform itself.

Project Harbor is an enterprise-class registry server based on the Docker Distribution project, a toolset for packing, shipping, storing, and delivering Docker images. It adds "functionalities usually required by an enterprise," the GitHub project website explains, including security and identity management. Project Admiral is a lightweight platform for deploying and managing container-based applications. It's designed to "provide automated deployment and lifecycle management of containers."

Announced this week at the VMworld Conference in Las Vegas, the new features make it possible for IT operations teams to provide a compatible Docker interface to their organizations' application development teams running on their existing vSphere infrastructure, explained Mike Adams, senior director of product marketing at VMware.

"These are pieces we believe are absolutely vital for running containers in production," Adams told ADTmag. "Developers want to use containers because they're fast, simple, and lightweight. And the operations guys like them because they provide the services they need on top of vSphere."

The company unveiled VIC at last year's conference as a virtual container host for the deployment of both containerized and traditional apps on a common infrastructure. It was already possible to run containers inside the vSphere virtualization suite, but the company began providing specific container support with this announcement.

Kit Colbert, CTO of VMware's cloud platform group, made the VIC announcement during his conference keynote. "vSphere administrators don't want to give application and development teams access into vSphere," he said, "so they need a place for the app teams to go and manage containers, which is exactly what we're providing with vSphere Integrated Containers now."

VMware's VIC project is mostly about bringing the benefits of containers to traditional IT, said IDC analyst Al Hilwa. "The fact is, many of VMware's customers are playing with containers, and in some cases are putting them in production," he said in an email. "However, these may not be the same teams running the enterprise. Containers in production are found today in new applications. They are definitely found in abundance at Bay Area start-ups and unicorns and at many tech companies, typically known as industry disruptors. They are also found at the many digital transformation labs or centers of excellence at disrupted companies, running side-by-side with the traditional workloads. The reality is that these two types of IT are not yet integrated and DevOps and continuous delivery workflows, which predominate in one realm, are still not typically practiced with traditional workloads."

Adding the capabilities of Admiral and Harbor to the platform will help with enterprise "security anxieties" around containers, Hilwa said, while bringing some of the attributes of the cloud, such self-service and an enterprise container registry, to private cloud users.

"This may be just the right ticket for the traditional side of IT to dip its toes in the container world," he said. "It may even help the two sides of IT get closer together. What is important to assess is to what degree VMware will bring its customers to the promise land of digital transformation. The signs are good, but the company has to continue to invest to bridge the two sides of IT."

VMware vSphere Integrated Containers with Harbor and Admiral is now as a single download, and the company has opened registration for a beta program open to its customers.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].