VMware's Photon Machine 'microvisor' may not be so small

The magic's in the integration between OS and hypervisor, not just a smaller virty layer

VMware Photon

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger yesterday hinted that the company is close to revealing its complete cloud-native applications stack, but The Register's virtualisation desk today learned that the yet-to-be-revealed part - the “microvisor” dubbed “Photon Machine” - probably won't be all that micro.

VMware's cloud-native applications play rests on the Photon OS, a lightweight Linux for containers, the Photon Controller orchestrator and the Photon Machine.

Photon OS has been open-sourced, as has the Controller but Photon Machine is yet to see the light of day.

Photon Machine was billed as a "microvisor" rather than a full hypervisor. But VMware's general manager for cloud-native apps, Kit Colbert, today told The Register not to expect a radically slimmed down hypervisor, for two reasons.

The first is that ESX is hardly colossal and barely adds a performance overhead to apps these days. So Photon Machine doesn't need to shrink markedly in order to meet its aim of providing a simple hypervisor in which Photon OS can run.

The other reason is that Colbert said VMware has found that interaction between the operating system and the hypervisor is what makes the most difference to performance. Photon OS already boots in 200 milliseconds and requires full ESX. How fast might it be with a mutually optimised hypervisor?

Running Photon OS and Photon Machine in harness is therefore going to be VMware's way of delivering a high-performance container combo. VMware's wider play is explaining to developers that while they can build cool stuff with containers, it would be best if they did so while also contemplating security, automation, the mucky business of hardware and all the other infrastructure-management stuff on which VMware has built its business.

When will we see the Machine so we can figure out its shoe size? Colbert couldn't say. The Register's virtualisation desk suspects we don't have long to wait. ®

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