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Kubernetes Takes Center Stage at VMworld

All the best new product names and code names spoken during the VMworld kickoff keynote had to do with Kubernetes.

The names that involved creative effort and an attempt at inspiration on the part of the product and marketing teams were "Tanzu," "Project Pacific" and "Project Galleon."

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger left no doubt during his Monday keynote why VMware is investing in Kubernetes-related acquisitions, contributing engineering resources to related open source projects, building new products related to Kubernetes, overhauling old ones to better support Kubernetes, and spending time on getting the names right.

"Since Java, the virtual machine or cloud, we haven't seen a technology as critical as Kubernetes," Gelsinger said. "Kubernetes is achieving industry consensus and energy as the platform that will connect these two worlds of developers and IT operators. Some think about Kubernetes as container orchestration. But we believe it is much, much more."

In an official VMware blog post summarizing VMware's many VMworld announcements, Chris Wolf put the timing of VMware's new push on the 5-year-old Kubernetes technology in a different context.

"Enterprises are expected to build more apps over the next several years than they built over previous decades. That's a massive acceleration in innovation velocity. To handle it, IT needs greater agility while providing the flexibility and control critical to many organizations," wrote Wolf, the vice president and CTO of Global Field and Industry for VMware.

One of VMware's key Kubernetes-related acquisitions was Heptio back in December. That company included two of the former Google employees who created Kubernetes. Gelsinger called one of those Kubernetes creators, Joe Beda, onto the stage at VMworld to explain VMware's vision for Kubernetes.

"When we created Kubernetes, we were really trying to achieve this sort of Goldilocks level between operators and developers. We wanted something that was low-level enough to be able to deal with any application, any language that you can throw at it. But we also wanted something high enough that it actually provides real value and accelerates developers as they try and get their work done. And we wanted that to span any infrastructure -- public cloud, private cloud, edge," Beda said. "But oftentimes, folks need to be Kubernetes experts to get the most out of it. But really, what enterprises need is a secured, opinionated experience through this. And the best company to deliver this is VMware."

VMware's main new effort around Kubernetes, unveiled Monday, is called Tanzu. "Tanzu is Swahili for branch, a new branch of innovation, or it's Japanese for container that's designed for portability," Gelsinger said at VMworld. Broadly, Tanzu covers a new portfolio of products and services for three enterprise motions involving Kubernetes -- build, run and manage.

The most ambitious effort of Tanzu is "Project Pacific." With a code name presumably chosen for its scale and comprehensiveness, Project Pacific is designed to overhaul a future version of VMware vSphere as a Kubernetes-native platform.

The idea is to embed Kubernetes into the control plane of vSphere, bringing together containers and virtual machines on a single platform. The project will also add a container runtime into the hypervisor, while the platform will include app-focused management capabilities and be designed to improve DevOps collaboration.

Nearer-term was the unveiling of a tech preview of VMware Tanzu Mission Control, which provides a single point of control for managing Kubernetes clusters no matter where they are running. The clusters can be in vSphere, public clouds, managed services, packaged distributions or do-it-yourself Kubernetes. Administrators will be able to assess cluster or component health and drill down if necessary using Wavefront by VMware. Tanzu Mission Control will also allow operators to apply policies to individual clusters or groups of clusters that span the environments supported by Tanzu Mission Control.

Also introduced at VMworld was a beta of "Project Galleon." The project, named after European sailing ships, comes out of Bitnami, another Kubernetes-related acquisition from this May. Bitnami provides a catalog of pre-built application content for Kubernetes clusters to a community of developers. The beta Project Galleon offering will enable IT departments to deliver those multicloud-ready applications stacks and formats to their own developers.

Those not impressed by code names can follow the money. While the Bitnami and Heptio acquisitions were significant, VMware announced last week that it is acquiring Pivotal Software in a deal that puts that company's value at $2.7 billion. The announcement made a lot of references to Pivotal's Kubernetes integrations.

Details of how Pivotal and its Kubernetes technologies will fit into VMware's plans probably won't be clear until after the deal's expected close in January 2020, although it is presumably further along than most big acquisitions since Pivotal had been in the Dell-EMC-VMware orbit. But expect more Kubernetes focus to add to the emphasis already on display at VMworld. As Beda put it on Monday: "Pivotal and Kubernetes go together like peanut butter and jelly. We've seen Pivotal really embrace Kubernetes."

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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