At the VMworld 2019 conference this week, VMware in no uncertain teams made it clear it wants to become a major DevOps force.
Following the acquisition of sister company Pivotal Software last week, VMware is moving to build out an application development framework for building and deploying cloud-native applications based on Kubernetes. That effort coincides with ongoing investments in its vRealize Suite of management tools, through which VMware is committed to automating IT operations across both on-premises IT environments and public cloud computing environments.
To advance those twin goals, VMware this week launched a series of Tanzu management tools for managing any distribution of Kubernetes while at the same time launching VMware hybrid cloud platform, which combines everything—from vRealize automation tools to the monitoring tools from Wavefront by VMware—to create a central console through which all of IT can be managed.
After deciding to launch a series of services through which it manages instances of its software on public clouds such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and local servers from sister company Dell EMC, VMware has been slowly expanding its reach into the realm of applications. The most significant element of that thrust to date has been its acquisition of Pivotal, a provider of the widely used Spring framework based on Java and a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment based on open source software from the Cloud Foundry Foundation (CFF).
The CFF is in the process of migrating the application development environment created for Cloud Foundry to Kubernetes, a cloud-native container orchestration engine being developed under the auspices of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). Both the CFF and the CNCF are arms of the Linux Foundation. The rise of Kubernetes has resulted in many organizations shifting their application development strategies to a platform capable of supporting multiple application development environments.
Prior to announcing the deal to be acquired by VMware, Pivotal cut its revenue forecast for fiscal 2020 by $40 to $50 million.
Pivotal Software spun out of VMware in 2013, so to a certain degree VMware’s move to acquire Pivotal represents something of a homecoming that last week was valued at $2.7 billion. Pivotal currently has about 350 customers, many of which are hosting a distribution of the Cloud Foundry PaaS on VMware platforms. VMware also tapped Pivotal to jointly develop a curated instance of Kubernetes, dubbed Pivotal Container Service (PKS), that is optimized for VMware platform. As part of that effort, VMware is also developing an instance of VMware vSphere that will run Kubernetes natively.
At the VMworld 2019 conference, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger made it clear VMware plans to leverage Kubernetes to bridge the historical divide between developers and IT operations teams. In fact, he told attendees Kubernetes was the most important technology to emerge since the virtual machine was created. As part of that effort, Gelsinger noted that the acquisition of Pivotal coupled with the recent acquisition of Bitnami, a provider of tools for packaging applications, means there are now more 5 million developers participating in the VMware ecosystem.
VMware is clearly hoping the developer ecosystem will expand as VMware makes it easier to launch virtual machines on every major public cloud as well as on-premises IT environments. VMware has faced a major challenge over the last several years as DevOps teams have bypassed internal IT teams to deploy applications on cloud services based on alternative virtual machines by AWS or Microsoft. Thanks to the inherent portability of Kubernetes, VMware is hoping organizations will now deploy cloud-native applications on VMware platforms. It remains to be seen, however, to what degree DevOps teams will embrace VMware on public clouds versus continuing to employ those virtual machines.
When it comes to cloud-native computing, VMware is clearly playing catchup. VMware has 250 PKS customers today, while rivals such as Red Hat (now an arm of IBM) have already redeployed their application development and deployment platforms on Kubernetes as an alternative to the Cloud Foundry PaaS. On the plus side, VMware now claims to be the third-largest contributor to Kubernetes, thanks in part to its acquisition of Heptio, a provider of Kubernetes tools.
In the meantime, there’s no question VMware is at the forefront of developing tools for automating the management and securing of IT infrastructure running its virtual machine software. Less clear is to what degree VMware will be able to translate that success to also unify application development and IT operations across multiple platforms a truly meaningful DevOps way, rather than merely bundling a suite of disparate tools together at a discount.