VMware hangs with the cool kids in the Containers gang

We almost invented containers but were too shy to talk about them says CTO

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If 2014 has a hotter infrastructure software topic than containerisation, your correspondent is yet to find it.

The excitement comes from the fact that containerisation has been proved to work at colossal scale and looks to represent a lightweight and easy-to-manage alternative to virtualisation. Much discussion of containerisation has therefore positioned it either as virtualisation's heir, or a fork in the road that means the likes of VMware won't have things all to themselves from now on. That OpenStack will more or less treat containers and virtual machines as equals adds spice to the pot.

What, then, to make of VMware end-user computing CTO Kit Colbert re-visiting his old software-defined data centre stomping ground to post about how VMware not only thinks containerisation is a fine idea, but could even be said to have pioneered it?

Colbert says “VMware sees tremendous value in containers” and goes on to say the company “has actually been a huge proponent of containers for many years now” and suggests “You could even call us a pioneer of containers in the enterprise space” because the company created a container system called Warden for CloudFoundry in 2011.

“We did this exactly because we realized the need for simple application delivery into an isolated OS environment,” Colbert writes. “Thus we’re very excited to see Docker catalyzing the industry around containers, as they streamline application delivery and help to make customers even more successful.” Which is just the kind of thing VMware likes to do itself.

Colbert goes on to explain how the combination of containers and virtual machines makes everything better.

The TL;DR version of his argument is that containers are great but aren't mature so are risky, lack the kind of management and robustness VMware provides and might just work better running inside a virtual machine so you can get the best of all worlds.

Colbert also points to several VMworld sessions with a theme of “better together”. One,VMware and Docker – Better Together, will even see Docker CEO Ben Golub appear with VMware's CTO Chris Wolf.

That the two are willing to share a stage suggests Colbert's not just trying to position VMware as one of the cool kids who digs containers. Of course a year ago, VMware probably didn't imagine it would need to buddy up with Docker.

This cloud stuff is changing fast. ®

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