The virtual machine as the foundation for containers

Since containers got traction within the IT community,  especially with developers,  there have been discussions that it would make virtual machines obsolete.

“VMs (and with it hypervisors) are consumers of resources that can be used to run applications” is the general thought that comes to mind when you only take containers into account. Which is true is you are a developer and care about your applications: containers only on bare metal is the way to go!

But you do need to take into account that applications need to be maintained and managed by IT infrastructure operations guys. For them it’s about creating a stable environment and making sure that the infrastructure delivers it’s service in a resilient way, while keeping everything manageable. For this reason server virtualization and virtual machines have been a huge success over the last 10 years. It abstracted the compute functionality by creating virtual machines, made infrastructure management easy and optimizes resource management.

Now containers come along and all that great features of server virtualization are forgotten and basically Ops is being told: bare metal is the way forward.

In my opinion this all comes down to a responsibility definition : Containers solve a Dev problem, virtual machines solve an Ops problem.

Better yet virtual machines create a foundation for the challenges that containers have. The biggest problem with containers today is that they don’t provide isolation. This has been a feature of VMs since the beginning. So the shortcomings of containers are solved by virtual machines.

The picture below give a graphical representation of a container on top of a virtual machine.

Don’t get me wrong: I love containers and the problems that they solve for developers, but I don’t think we need to throw away best practices on how to operate an IT infrastructure just because we can. Virtual machines have proven to be a good foundation within IT infrastructures of today and test have already proven that the impact for resources of running containers on top of hypervisors are minimal, even neglectable.

So containers on top of virtual machines: the best of both worlds & bringing Dev and Ops closer together.

Project Photon and Lightwave, the start of a new VMware era

VMware Cloud-Native Apps released their first open-source projects with the announcement and release of project Lightwave and Photon. This is a new step in the path forward for VMware. VMware has always been closed source and supportive of other open-source projects, but this is the first time that VMware is taking the lead and released code through open-source for it’s own projects.

A new step and it suits the approach of making “developers first class citizens of the datacenter”. I’ve been working with VMware products for some years now and have seen this trend slowly building up. Their is a shift happening. No longer are applications the turf that only belongs to developers and nor is IT infrastructure the turf that only belongs to the IT operations guys. Call it evolution, call it “DevOps”, but more and more organisations see the benefit of making applications and IT operations work closely together to get the best out of both worlds : a platform that can run any applications; legacy or cloud-native.

In my opinion it is a good move for VMware to follow this trend and to transform itself from an IT infrastructure company into a company that acknowledges the needs of both the developers and the IT ops guys. VMware is one of the thought leaders in the space of virtualization and cloud computing and has experience of introducing complex software concepts into enterprise environments. Server virtualization was the start, with Software-Defined Data Center being the vision that build on the advantages that virtualization provides.

VMware Cloud-Native Apps is a new era. A new step forward in the continuing to support the application evolution into the cloud. And in my opinion its was only natural to choose the path of open-source. If you want to treat developers as “first class citizens”, you need to make them part of the VMware application development lifecycle.

This is that start of more things to come. I hope we’ll see more projects targeted at the next generation of applications with lost of community involvement and the opportunity to be part of something great. VMware ❤️ Developers!

For more information on project Photon & Lightwave got to