VMware enables integrated software containers in its flagship vSphere 6.5 platform


VMware Inc. has finally introduced its long-awaited vSphere Integrated Containers feature in vSphere 6.5, its flagship server virtualization software.

VMware first pitched the idea of integrated containers at VMWorld 2015, arguing that it’s inherently more secure to run Docker containers inside a hypervisor rather than outside of one, all on its own. The company further claims that containers can get added benefits from some of the existing tooling in vSphere.

Many container proponents contend that containers are actually a major threat to virtualization. They say containers are lighter, faster and generally much more suited to building scalable web and mobile apps. VMware agrees that containers are great, but points to its more mature ecosystem and the fact that companies already have massive investments in virtualization as reasons to consider wedding the two technologies together. Instead of creating an entirely new silo for containers, it makes more sense to run containers inside existing environments built for virtual machines, VMware reckons.

As such, vSphere Integrated Containers, unveiled on Dec. 9, might not be very cool, but they are “very useful,” the company claimed in its announcement. It’s worth noting that the release of vSphere Integrated Containers comes after Gartner Inc. said in its most recent Magic Quadrant for x86 server virtualization that VMware’s biggest challenge is to win over developers.

Perhaps responding to this, VMware concedes in its post that the integrated container approach may not be appealing to all types of developer, many of whom have been completely swept off their feet by the promise of container technology. So in order to win over that audience, the company has added some new features in an attempt to make its new offering more interesting.

First, VMware has introduced a Docker-compatible interface, as well as a container management portal and registry for keep track of containers. Second, VMware has open-sourced that registry, called Harbor, as well as a second tool known as Admiral that adds container support to vRealize Automation, which can now help to automate containers.

Finally, the company has launched a tool called VIC Engine, which enables the deployment of the Virtual Container Host on vSphere. The Virtual Container Host replicates Docker for developers.

VMware notes in its post that vSphere Integrated Containers is aimed at users of its vSphere stack. For those who don’t, it’s offering an alternative based on Lightwave and Photon container technology for those who might be interested in running containers inside VMs.

VMware said it will be releasing and supporting vSphere Integrated Containers as part of vSphere 6.5 as of last week.