VMware's vSphere server virtualization and Cloud Foundry PaaS will get more built-in Kubernetes features later this year, but concerns about the company's impending acquisition by Broadcom and a multitude of competitive alternatives will muddy the waters for at least some IT buyers.
VMware officials publicized a list of plans for the VMware Tanzu Kubernetes-based product line this week, including October release dates for expanded integrations with vSphere 8, and the general availability of Tanzu Application Service Adapter as part of VMware Tanzu Application Service (TAS) version 3.0. Both efforts have been in the works for years; Tanzu integration was also included in vSphere 7 last year, and one previous effort to meld Kubernetes to Cloud Foundry PaaS was shelved in 2021.
"Tanzu Application Service Adapter ... provides the Cloud Foundry 'cf push' experience on top of the Tanzu platform built on Kubernetes, unifying and providing a consistent developer experience across both our TAS platform and [Tanzu Application Platform]," said Ajay Patel, senior vice president and general manager for the Modern Apps and Management Business Group at VMware, in a press briefing last week. "With vSphere 8, we're finally culminating a multi-year effort to bring Kubernetes as an embedded solution with the vSphere platform."
VMware Tanzu updates culminate years of integration efforts
The VMware Tanzu integration with vSphere 8 now includes a unified declarative API for Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Service on premises and Tanzu Kubernetes Grid (TKG) for public cloud, meaning both on premises and public cloud-based Kubernetes clusters have the same cluster provisioning process, tooling for extension management and model for release distribution. The combined tools also support more advanced Kubernetes management features such as multi-availability-zone resiliency.
TKG 2.0 also brings more features to the table for both Kubernetes and vSphere users. The new version supports cluster creation through Cluster API, an open source Kubernetes component meant to standardize deployments among disparate cloud providers. TKG 2.0 integrates Flux CD GitOps tools for a more programmatic approach to Kubernetes deployments as well, along with new support for single-node clusters in edge computing environments. Finally, TKG adds application lifecycle management tooling from the open source Carvel project, already a part of Tanzu Application Platform (TAP), which VMware officials claim will simplify workload management for developers and vSphere platform operators.
With this release, VMware will also add a new Cloud Consumption Interface service to vSphere 8.
"[In] bringing cloud benefits to existing on-prem deployments, we talked about Project Arctic, vSphere Plus and vSAN Plus earlier this year," said Mark Lohmeyer, senior vice president and general manager of cloud infrastructure at VMware during last week's press briefing. "We're taking the next step by introducing the Cloud Consumption Interface Service ... a single API endpoint from which customers can deliver common cloud infrastructure services like provision a VM, configure a VPC or provision additional cloud storage -- you can do all of that through an industry-standard Kubernetes operator model."
These updates were part of a broad set of product news that coincided with the company's VMware Explore conference this week, which also included a swath of preview-stage features for Tanzu Mission Control, TKG, Tanzu Kubernetes for Operations and TAP, as well as integrations between TKG and the forthcoming VMware Edge Compute Stack 2.0.
VMware also reworked its IT automation and observability portfolio under a new brand name, Aria, which seeks to be a one-stop shop for mapping the relationships between applications scattered among edge locations, private data centers and public clouds. In all cases, the updated software packages are due to ship by Oct. 28, 2022, the end of VMware's fiscal third quarter.
Who will buy? An open question as Broadcom looms
Overshadowing this bevy of product news is the $61 billion acquisition of VMware by Broadcom, expected to close no later than October 2023, one year after the products discussed this week are slated to ship. Since the deal was confirmed publicly in May 2022, industry watchers and IT pros have been nervous about whether Broadcom will invest in innovation for its new asset after its previous acquisitions of software companies in CA and Symantec were seen to falter.
"Broadcom's acquisition history is not good in terms of maintaining the innovation and research budgets of the acquired company," said Larry Carvalho, independent analyst at RobustCloud. "A lot of announcements kept pushing out general availability to the future. Whether VMware can keep [up to] date with competitive offerings remains to be seen."
Larry CarvalhoIndependent analyst, RobustCloud
However, VMware also has a strong customer base for vSphere that won't be able to uproot the hypervisor platform from on-premises data centers any time soon, said Gary Chen, analyst at IDC, who called concerns about the Broadcom merger overblown.
"That's what everyone's talking about, but it's pretty far down the road -- the deal won't close for another year, it could take another year for Broadcom to decide what to do with [VMware] and probably another year after that to actually execute that plan," Chen said. "It could be two to three years before there's actual impact."
In the meantime, enterprises that need the kind of features the VMware Tanzu portfolio includes, such as multi-cloud Kubernetes management, have alternatives to choose from, including cloud providers' managed Kubernetes services and Red Hat's OpenShift. VMware Tanzu Application Platform 1.3 will run on an OpenShift back end when it's released in October, VMware revealed this week. But that could be too late for some customers, according to Carvalho.
"IT departments with a strong VMware portfolio cannot stand still when there is a demand for new solutions," Carvalho said. "If there is an opportunity to replace VMware solutions with competitive alternatives with a small effort and low risk, IT buyers should consider it."
IDC's Chen said he doesn't see competition for Kubernetes management as a zero-sum game between Red Hat, VMware and cloud service providers, as vendor messaging around unified multi-cloud management might suggest.
"A lot of people have multi-cloud, but they don't have multi-cloud management -- it tends to be pretty siloed between on-premises and cloud-based workloads," Chen said. "It's still common to use something like OpenShift on premises and [Elastic Kubernetes Service] and [Azure Kubernetes Service] in the cloud, rather than only using OpenShift for everything or running something like Amazon EKS Anywhere."
That leaves some opportunity for VMware Tanzu integrated with vSphere and Cloud Foundry PaaS to get a foot in the door with enterprises still shifting workloads to cloud and containers, according to Chen.
Still, there's also the matter of fully managed SaaS applications that's eroding at least some of the market for multi-cloud infrastructure management among VMware customers.
"You pay top dollar for VMware, and the technology is amazing, but if all your top tier apps are now in [SaaS], why do you need fault tolerance, vMotion and all that?" said Brian Kirsch, an IT architect and instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College, who said most of his organization's on-premises VMware spend is now in Horizon virtual desktops, rather than server infrastructure. "Most people can't spell Kubernetes, but I don't know if [VMware is] going to be able to take their eye off that prize."
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.