Archive for VMware

Looking at Microservices, Containers, and Kubernetes with 2020 Vision

Kubernetes Icon

Some years are easy to predict than others. Stability in a market makes tracing the trend line much easier. 2020 looks to be that kind of year for the migration to microservices: stable with stead progression toward mainstream acceptance.

There is little doubt that IT organizations are moving toward microservices architectures. Microservices, which deconstruct applications into many small parts, removes much of the friction that is common in n-Tier applications when it comes to development velocity. The added resiliency and scalability of microservices in a distributed system are also highly desirable. These attributes promote better business agility, allowing IT to respond to business needs more quickly and with less disruption, while helping to ensure that customers have the best experience possible.

Little in this upcoming year seems disruptive or radical; That big changes have already occurred. Instead, this is a year for building out and consolidating; Moving past the “what” and “why” and into the “how” and “do”.

Kubernetes will be top of mind to IT in the coming year. From its roots as a humble container orchestrator – one of many in the market – Kubernetes has evolved into a platform for deploying microservices into container clusters. There is more work to do with Kubernetes, especially to help autoscale clusters, but it is now a solid base on which to build modern applications.

No one should delude themselves into thinking that microservices, containers, and Kubernetes are mainstream yet. The vast majority of applications are still based on n-Tier design deployed to VMs. That’s fine for a lot of applications but businesses know that it’s not enough going forward. We’ve already seen more traditional companies begin to adopt microservices for at least some portion of their applications. This trend will accelerate in the upcoming year. At some point, microservices and containers will become the default architecture for enterprise applications. That’s a few years from now but we’ve already on the path.

From a vendor perspective, all the biggest companies are now in the Kubernetes market with at least a plain vanilla Kubernetes offering. This includes HP and Cisco in addition to the companies that have been selling Kubernetes all along, especially IBM/Red Hat, Canonical, Google, AWS, VMWare/Pivotal, and Microsoft. The trick for these companies will be to add enough unique value that their offerings don’t appear generic. Leveraging traditional strengths, such as storage for HP, networking for Cisco, and Java for Red Hat and VMWare/Pivotal, are the key to standing out in the market.

The entry of the giants in the Kubernetes space will pose challenges to the smaller vendors such as Mirantis and Rancher. With more than 30 Kubernetes vendors in the market, consolidation and loss is inevitable. Expect M&A activity in the Kubernetes space as bigger companies acquihire or round out their portfolios. Kubernetes is now a big vendor market and the market dynamics favor them. There’s plenty of value in the smaller firms but it will be too easy for them to get trampled underfoot.

If there is a big danger sign on the horizon, it’s those traditional n-Tier applications that are still in production. At some point, IT will get around to thinking beyond the shiny new greenfield applications and want to migrate the older ones. Since these apps are based on radically different architectures, that won’t be easy. There just aren’t the tools to do this migration well. In short, it’s going to be a lot of work. It’s a hard sell to say that the only choices are either expensive migration projects (on top of all that digital transformation money that’s already been spent) or continuing to support and update applications that no longer meet business needs. Replatforming, or deploying the old parts to the new container platform, will provide less ROI and less value overall. The industry will need another solution.

This may be an opportunity to use all that fancy AI technology that vendor’s have been investing in to create software to break down an old app into a container cluster. In any event, the migration issue will be a drag on the market in 2020 as IT waits for solutions to a nearly intractable problem.

2020 is the year of the microservice architecture. Even if that seems too dramatic, it’s not unreasonable to expect that there will be significant growth and acceleration in the deployment of Kubernetes-based microservices applications. The market has already begun the process of maturation as it adapts to the needs of larger, mainstream, corporations with more stringent requirements. The smart move is to follow that trend line.

VMware plus Pivotal Equals Platforms

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This blog also appeared on the Amalgam Insights website.

Today (August 22, 2019) VMware announced the acquisition of Pivotal. Term “acquisition” seems a little weird here since both are partly owned by Dell. It’s a bit like Dell buying Dell. Strangeness aside, this is a combination that makes a lot of sense.

For nearly eight years now, the concept of a microservices architecture has been taking shape. Microservices is an architectural idea wherein applications are broken up into many, small, bits of code – or services – that provide a limited set of functions and operate independently. Applications are assembled Lego-like, from component microservices. The advantages of microservices are that different parts of a system can evolve independently, updates are less disruptive, and systems become more resilient because system components are less likely to harm each other. The primary vehicle for microservices are containers, that are deployed in clusters to enhance resiliency and more easily scale up resources.

The Kubernetes open source software has emerged as the major orchestrator for containers and provides a stable base to build microservice platforms. These platforms must deploy, not only the code that represents the business logic but a set of system services, such as network, tracing, logging, and storage, as well. Container cluster platforms are, by nature, complex assortments of many moving parts – hard to build and hard to maintain.

The big problem has been that most container technology has been open source and deployed piecemeal, leaving forward looking companies to assemble their own container cluster microservices platforms. Building out and then maintaining these DIY platforms requires continued
investment in people and other resources. Most companies either can’t afford or are unwilling to make investments in this amount of engineering talent and training. Subsequently, there are a lot of companies that have been left out of the container platform game.

The big change has been in the emergence of commercial platforms, based on open source projects, that bring to IT everything it needs to deploy container-based microservices. All the cloud companies, Google especially which was the original home of Kubernetes, and open source software vendors such as Red Hat (recently acquired by IBM) with their OpenShift platform, have some form of Kubernetes-based platform. There may be as much as two dozen commercial platforms based on Kubernetes today.

This brings us to VMware and Pivotal. Both companies are in the platform business. VMware is still the dominant player in Virtual Machine (VM) hypervisors, which underpin most systems today, and are marketing a Kubernetes distribution. They also recently purchased Bitnami, a company that makes technology for bundling containers for deployment. Pivotal markets a Kubernetes distribution as well but also one of the major vendors for Cloud Foundry, another platform that runs containers, VMs, and now Kubernetes. The Pivotal portfolio also includes Spring Boot, one of the primary frameworks for building microservices in Java, and an extensive Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment capability based on BOSH (part of Cloud Foundry), Concourse, and other open source tools.

Taken together, VMware and Pivotal offer a variety of platforms for newer microservices and legacy VM architectures that will fit the needs of a big swatch of large enterprises. This will give them both reach and depth in large enterprise companies and allow their sales teams to sell whichever platform a customer needs at the moment while providing a path to newer architectures. From a product portfolio perspective, VMware plus Pivotal is a massive platform play that will help them to compete more effectively against the likes of IBM/Red Hat or the big cloud vendors.

On their own, neither VMWare or Pivotal had the capacity to compete against Red Hat OpenShift, especially now that that Red Hat has access to IBM’s customer base and sales force. Together they will have a full range of technology to bring to bear as the Fortune 500 moves into microservices. The older architectures are also likely to remain in place either because of legacy reasons or because they just fit the applications they serve. VMware/Pivotal will be in a position to service those companies as well.

VMware could easily have decided to pick up any number of Kubernetes distribution companies such as Rancher or Platform9. None of them would have provided the wide range of platform choices that Pivotal brings to the table. And besides, this keeps it all in the Dell family.