Oracle WebLogic customers gained a pre-paved on-ramp to Kubernetes deployment this week in the Verrazzano Enterprise Container Platform.
Verrazzano consists of a curated stack of open source components that includes the Istio service mesh, Prometheus and Grafana observability tools and SUSE Rancher's multi-cluster Kubernetes management software. Verrazzano is supported on Oracle Cloud, in customer data centers and on third-party cloud providers such as AWS and Azure.
The product's introduction significantly lags general-purpose Kubernetes platforms that have been available for years, such as Red Hat OpenShift and VMware's Tanzu. Oracle also already offered a managed Kubernetes service on Oracle Cloud. Its major differentiation lies in support for Kubernetes deployments of Oracle WebLogic middleware on Kubernetes and prepackaged support for open source Java microservices utilities such as the Helidon framework, lightweight GraalVM application server and Coherence data management system.
"Typically, our enterprise customers have a large estate of custom applications that they've written in Java EE and they're looking to get the same DevOps benefits [as greenfield applications]," said David Cabelus, senior principal product manager at Oracle. "But they don't want to tear it all apart and start over."
Oracle already offered a WebLogic Kubernetes Toolkit to automate app migrations to a Kubernetes-ready state without a full refactoring, though some changes to API calls are required. With Verrazzano's general availability this week, Oracle WebLogic users can also get automated deployments of such apps to a prebuilt, multi-cluster Kubernetes infrastructure.
With this initial release, Oracle WebLogic, Coherence and Helidon users can get Kubernetes deployment automation including namespace creation and secrets management; mutual TLS connections and network security policy creation through Istio; deployment of Kubernetes Operators and custom resource definitions among clusters; and instrumentation with Prometheus metrics monitoring, Fluentd distributed tracing and Grafana dashboards, among other utilities.
Modernizing legacy Java apps is big business
Verrazzano can serve as a general-purpose Kubernetes platform, according to Cabelus, and it will be supported by Oracle from the Kubernetes layer up to the application layer on third-party cloud providers such as AWS. Future updates to the platform will expand support for generic Java apps and non-Java workloads; advanced deployment strategies such as canary and GitOps; and enhanced DevSecOps features, Cabelus said.
However, industry watchers are skeptical that Verrazzano will appeal to anyone other than existing Oracle WebLogic customers. For instance, Oracle certifies that its container platform will run on major cloud providers' infrastructures, and has tested its multi-cloud functionality on a mix of Oracle Cloud, Azure Kubernetes Service and Amazon EKS back ends, but the other cloud providers themselves haven't certified support for Verrazzano. This contrasts with Red Hat's OpenShift, for example, which has mutual support agreements with AWS and Azure.
"There would be nothing to make somebody comfortable to say, 'I'm going to do this' compared to others who are certified and have a deep partnership with a public cloud provider," said Larry Carvalho, independent consultant at Robust Cloud. "Most customers, especially if it's mission-critical ... won't run it if it's not certified [by the cloud provider] so I get the best of support from both vendors."
Another potential limit to Verrazzano's appeal outside the Oracle customer base is its price tag. While the components are open source, the packaged Verrazzano product costs $5,400 per Kubernetes worker node processor. Existing Oracle WebLogic Suite customers will get free access to the platform.
Large enterprises with substantial investments in Oracle WebLogic are much more likely than general-purpose Kubernetes users to see a return on such an investment, analysts said.
"Enterprises still look to technology providers [like Oracle] to do a lot of the architectural legwork to modernize the software ... that they build and run [without] a full refactoring," said Brad Shimmin, an analyst at Omdia, a tech research and consulting firm based in London. "That's worth gobs of time and money."
There's also no shortage of organizations that will need legacy application modernization support as container use matures. While Oracle doesn't publicly estimate the number of WebLogic customers, the product was among the most popular Java web application development frameworks of the last decade, and maintains a global customer base. Most of these customers are very large enterprises.
Gary ChenAnalyst, IDC
Despite a popular association between containers and Kubernetes with greenfield deployments, research points to substantial interest among such enterprises in using containers to support existing workloads. In an early 2020 survey of 1,000 IT decision makers by IDC, 55% said they were using containers with existing applications.
"Oracle apps are known for being tough to containerize, because of their complex, traditional architectures and because they tend to be stateful," said Gary Chen, an analyst at IDC. "Customers haven't been really comfortable there yet without a solid support statement from Oracle -- [Verrazzano] is a sign that Oracle will support containers for the toughest, most complex enterprise customers."
Beth Pariseau, senior news writer at TechTarget, is an award-winning veteran of IT journalism. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @PariseauTT.