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Container party: VMware, Microsoft, Cisco and Red Hat all get in on app hoopla

Brandon Butler | Sept. 4, 2014
When a sports team makes the playoffs a sense of excitement builds in their home city and people who didn't follow the team all season long come out of the woodwork to jump on the bandwagon and cheer on their local squad.

When a sports team makes the playoffs a sense of excitement builds in their home city and people who didn't follow the team all season long  come out of the woodwork to jump on the bandwagon and cheer on their local squad.

It almost feels like something similar is happening in the cloud and broader tech world with container technology right now. While containers are not a new technology, in the past month or so many of the major tech vendors have made announcements supporting the operating-system level virtualization process known as containers and Docker, the darling container management open source project/company.

Containers are a lightweight application packaging model in which an app, along with all its dependencies can be assembled in a container and run on physical, virtual, bare metal, public or private clouds. During the past 18 months as the container technology has reached buzzword status some have questioned what the rise of containers will mean for hypervisors, which virtualize hardware infrastructure at a lower level creating virtual machines. Containers can run on VMs but they don't have to. So could containers spell the demise, or at least the dramatic reduction of VMs? That would be bad for a company like VMware, a company that still makes a lot of money selling hypervisors.

So, one of the most surprising companies to weigh in on the container madness has been VMware. At VMWorld last week executives from the company argued that VMs and containers can live happily together. There are different use cases for VMs and containers, says Chris Wolf, VMware's CTO of the Americas. "I've always thought that there is room for containers and VMs to live together for the next several years. I see value in two layers of encapsulation, one at the OS and one at the app and we cannot ignore the enterprise readiness of VM security and VM management tools. Container management and security still needs improvement so why not combine the two worlds?"

At VMWorld the company announced plans to support Docker - which automates the creation of containers - in the company's management software. Basically Wolf's argument (which he outlines in a blog post) is that if customers want to use containers and Docker, they should manage it using VMware's software. Doing so will provide users a "single pane of glass" for managing VMs and containers all together. For applications that need rapid scale-out and expansion, containers could be a good fit. For a whole variety of more traditional workloads, VMs do just fine. With containers and VMs, it's not an either or, it's an "and" situation.

VMware isn't the only company talking containers recently though. It's easier to find cloud companies that aren't talking containers than those who are.

 

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