VMware's Pivotal purchase looks toward a containerized, not virtualized, future

VMware is reabsorbing Pivotal after seven years apart, though customers looking for a radical change as a result will need to contain their excitement.

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VMware's intent to purchase Pivotal, announced at VMworld 2019, is an important indicator about the future of cloud computing. As the last stalwart proponent of a virtualization-first deployment strategy, the Pivotal purchase and larger embrace of Kubernetes underlies an inevitability most everyone realized in 2016: VMs are old and busted, and containers are where the momentum is.

The journey to this point is peculiar, as merger and acquisition stories go—VMware and Pivotal are both majority owned by Dell, as part of Dell's purchase of EMC in 2015. Pivotal spun out of VMware in 2012, and subsequently had an IPO at $15 per share in April 2018, and VMware is paying $15 per share to acquire Pivotal. In an interview with ZDNet, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger stated that "Every move that we're making is calculated."

SEE: Server virtualization: Best (and worst) practices (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The actual customer impact is "minimal and positive," according to analyst firm Forrester Research. Forrester continues to note that VMware was already working with Pivotal and Google on Pivotal Container Service (PKS), the K in this instance standing for Kubernetes, and that the arrangement allows VMware the ability to "eliminate duplicate development efforts, reduce impedance in the sales cycle, and better direct its product and services strategy toward application development and development platforms as it aims higher up the stack to the application layer."

Considering the increasing role that cloud computing plays in the enterprise, the ability to orchestrate container deployment seamlessly across different public cloud vendors, as well as leverage Dell's related hybrid cloud offerings, puts VMware in a healthier state for the future, as containers are primed to overtake virtual machines.

How community action made Kubernetes the new PaaS standard

Kubernetes' importance as the go-to Platform as a Service (PaaS) orchestrator cannot be understated—since the project was moved under the governance of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) in March 2016, the project has seen 24,000 contributors—from more than 2,000 contributing companies, according to the CNCF Kubernetes Project Journey Report, published Thursday. 

This represents a 7x increase of active contributors during that time frame. In March 2016, Google—the originator of Kubernetes—and Red Hat comprised 83% of contributions. Today, that figure now sits at 35%, with the gross contributions from the two companies continuing to increase. CNCF emphasizes the collaborative, community aspect of Kubernetes, calling it the "Linux of the cloud," noting that "a neutral home for a project and community… drives growth and diversity that we believe are core elements of a successful open source project."

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