VSphere 7 Kubernetes capabilities ease move toward modern apps

VSphere 7 comes with a variety of updates -- most notably, native Kubernetes functionality. This helps developers deploy applications more efficiently, and also adds automation.

With the new version of vSphere, VMware made good on some of its Project Pacific promises. VMware focused on incorporating container management capabilities and providing more automation in vSphere 7, in efforts to support IT and development teams through the transition toward modern applications.

At VMworld 2019, VMware announced two initiatives to incorporate Kubernetes and container management into its product line: Project Pacific and the Tanzu portfolio. Project Pacific aimed to incorporate Kubernetes natively into vSphere, and Tanzu hoped to provide VMware users with a set of tools to monitor and manage containers in a environment.

"[Modern applications] are not just a single VM. Today, what we see is that the customer maybe has a Kubernetes application running on containers," said co-presenter Jared Rosoff, senior director of product manager for VMware, in a presentation called The New vSphere: How Kubernetes and VCF Are Redefining vSphere.

"You actually kind of have two different workloads running here. You have your application that's running inside this Kubernetes cluster, but then the Kubernetes cluster itself is an application I have to run. And it's very frequently running alongside some VM-based application."

VMware also added a variety of container management products to Tanzu over the past year, including Tanzu Mission Control for centralized cluster lifecycle management and Tanzu Application Service, a new runtime for several different types of applications. It also offers a release of vSphere with Tanzu that enables organizations to take advantage of these products.

The new vSphere Kubernetes capabilities

This year's release of vSphere -- vSphere 7 -- brings last year's Project Pacific to fruition, with native Kubernetes capabilities built into the code base of vSphere. It aims to give increased agility to development teams so that those teams can focus their efforts on developing applications quickly and deploying those applications onto supportive infrastructure. VSphere 7 also seeks to automate more of the infrastructure than previous vSphere releases.

"Some incumbent VMware admins may need to grow their skills -- like getting better at networking, for example -- because VMware will be managing more of the infrastructure," said Paul Delory, research director at Gartner, a research and advisory firm based out of Stamford, Connecticut.

In its vSphere update, VMware hoped to boost efficiency and streamline the process for IT teams moving toward modern application development. But VMware also aims to support organizations through that transition.

"It's not just VMs or containers -- it's both. And it's not just stateless workloads or stateful workloads -- it's both. We need to find ways of running all of these different components on a shared infrastructure and avoid creating silos," Rosoff said.

VSphere 7 introduces the concept of Namespaces as a new unit of management to combat silo creation. A namespace functions as a collection of infrastructure resources -- including VMs and Kubernetes clusters -- as part of a single logical application. Admins can now set storage and security policies at once across a namespace rather than performing that same operation on multiple objects.

Using Tanzu with vSphere and VCF

Part of the vSphere 7 release includes an option for vSphere with Tanzu, which comes on the heels of VMware's VCF with Tanzu release earlier this year. VSphere with Tanzu comes at an additional cost compared to standard vSphere 7, but VMware hopes to entice customers who are looking for a smoother transition to Kubernetes architecture.

"The virtual infrastructure admin team -- they [don't] need to be experts on Kubernetes," said session co-presenter Paul Turner, VP of product management for vSphere at VMware. "They just [need] to be able to set it up within their infrastructure."

VMware released VCF with Tanzu in March, which integrates and automates the deployment of cloud infrastructure components such as storage, networking and management. 

"VMware is keen to make sure that no matter where you fall on the spectrum, they have a flavor of Tanzu to sell you. Which is great for the product portfolio, but you do end up with this buffet of options…and it's difficult to sort out," Delory said.

VMware acquires SaltStack

VMware acquired SaltStack, a company that produces network automation software, to expand its automation abilities in a meaningful way. This acquisition can help ease network configuration for VMware customers using Tanzu products or the new vSphere.  

"For customers who want a more concrete, opinionated architecture, VMware can just recommend using [SaltStack] and package Salt configurations with Tanzu," Delory said. "Meanwhile, those customers who want to do their own configuration management can continue to use Ansible, Puppet, Chef, et cetera."

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