VMware builds a magic mirror for containers and a desktop cloud

Developers see containers, ops teams see VMs, VMware sees possibilities

Developers like containers because they're lightweight, easy to make, fast to spawn and allow them to do the DevOps thing and improve code continuously. But developers think virtual machines are clunky. Operations people like virtual machines because they're secure, easy to manage and/or automate and are the way IT mostly gets done these days. And they are wary of containers because they look lightweight and scarily impermanent.

VMware likes anything that gives anyone a reason to run virtual machines anywhere, anytime, so it should come as no surprise that it's developed a new tool that tries to satisfy both developers and operations folks.

“Project Bonneville”, be revealed at DockerCon this week, rests on VMware's ESX hypervisor and allows developers to create containers based images in the Docker Hub, each residing in its own virtual machine. Developers won't see that VM: they'll see a container. ESX admins will see a virtual machine. Everyone sees fast load times because the VMs won't be created from scratch but cloned, a faster process.

The idea is that everyone gets what they want and sees what they want to see. Just like you do in front of a mirror when you ponder your well-cut pecs, slim waist and nicely-defined abs.

VMware's also going to reveal AppCatalyst, a desktop hypervisor and private cloud for developers.

The idea here is that developers need a desktop cloud because it's painful waiting for changes to manifest in test and development rigs in a data centre or cloud. By building a desktop hypervisor that does storage and network abstraction, developers get the chance to test things on the desktop before they play with real data centres.

AppCatalyst will have no GUI – it's an all CLU affair to make developers happy. The product also bundles VMware's Photon lightweight Linux for containers and speaks to APIs for Docker and Vagrant so that developers can spawn containers and arrange automation. AppCatalyst is built on the same hypervisor as VMware's other desktop products, so don't expect massive scalability. Do expect an effort to give developers a chance to do early testing work before being satisfied their work is worthy of more resources.

AppCatalyst will be available here if users are willing to register.

Bonneville's debut will come as a tech preview and VMware tells The Reg's virtualisation desk it hasn't quite figured out what to do with it yet. We're told it's under consideration for future integration with vSphere and vCenter, but that no firm decisions have been made.

Which is a slightly odd way for a US$6bn company with a duty to enhance shareholder value to behave, so has us thinking Virtzilla wants Project Bonneville's existence to be widely-known even if it isn't yet ready for its plans to be fully revealed. At a guess, the preview could cool down some financial and/or analysts who worry that virtualisation is on the slide as containers rise. With Bonneville in view and the Photon and Lightwave native containers platforms, VMware has a more-than-decent strategy to keep itself relevant even as containers increase in popularity. ®

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