VMware is following a consistent theme for handling customer desire to implement DevOps for application development, while providing a steady foundation for traditional applications. VMware, like Microsoft, is burdened with how do organizations practically implement bi-modal IT.

If you are a data center manager, it’s difficult to reconcile the power of the voices of those within the enterprise calling for next-generation infrastructure such as Kubernetes and Mesos vs. the sheer numbers of legacy applications running within the data center. I spoke with VMware about how the company balances the needs of core customers that require stable, known infrastructure solutions such as vSphere against what they’ve labeled cloud-native.

Similar to its approach to hybrid cloud, VMware is focusing on extending customer investment in vSphere. In this post, I’ll explain how I see VMware’s position in the Cloud-Native data center.

The challengers

The challengers to VMware’s dominance in data center infrastructure are DevOps-focused initiatives such as Kubernetes, Docker, and Mesos. In one form or another, all of these platforms aim to remove the friction of solutions like vSphere. Application teams simply purchase the hardware, rack and stack the hardware, install Linux, and consume the infrastructure using their preferred open source platform, or a combination of open source platforms.

Another way of consuming resources is by provisioning an extremely large VM or cloud instance and leveraging one of these DevOps tools. One of the appeals of these tools is that the infrastructure is transparent to the developer. In the case of Docker, a developer can pull down multiple Docker images for each layer of their application. Once obtained, they are easily deployed on virtually any Linux distribution. It doesn’t matter to the developer if the underlying infrastructure is physical or virtual. The developer has control of the abstracted infrastructure to develop a full stack application.

Like a race car that reduces the overhead of doors that open, rear seats, and many other features, these open source platforms allow developers and their applications to go fast. Just like race cars, very few use cases are suited for this streamlined experience. Steady state operations become a concern for many of the emerging tools. What happens when you need disaster recovery, data replication, advanced security, and monitoring tools after quickly deploying new applications? How do you manage these applications alongside your existing environment?

VMware Integrated Containers

Many early adopters of these technologies may find that, post application deployment, there’s a need to build the infrastructure management ecosystem. Applications optimized to work with one network and storage provider may not work as seamlessly with another infrastructure stack. VMware is looking to hedge its bets with VMware Integrated Containers (VIC), its framework for managing containers in a vSphere Cluster, which is currently in technology preview.

Docker is VMware’s prime example of being able to leverage new open source development tools with legacy infrastructure tools. In the case of Docker, VIC becomes a target for the Docker API. When a developer issues a Docker Run command, VIC spawns a vSphere resource in response to the request. The resource could be a full VM or a container. These mappings get defined as a service offering based on requirements negotiated by the development and infrastructure teams.

VMware’s argument is that developers get what they truly desire, which is frictionless access to the infrastructure. While satisfying developer needs, the infrastructure team gains greater visibility into the workloads running in a containerized system. Also, infrastructure engineers leverage their existing tools to manage performance and capacity of developer-spawned applications and traditional applications.


Enterprise data center managers have to balance the needs of today’s infrastructure while providing easy access for tomorrow’s applications. VMware is banking on its ability to retrofit vSphere to accommodate the needs of both audiences.

Enterprises that have spent years supporting traditional vSphere environments may find that VIC offers that balance. I’m looking forward to seeing real-world testimonies from customers that have exposed their vSphere infrastructure to application developers leveraging VIC.

What do you think?

Does the idea of presenting your existing vSphere infrastructure via Docker APIs appeal to you? Or, are you looking to make a clean break from VMware, as tools for managing DevOps environments improve? Share your thoughts in the comments section.