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Hypervisors are sooo 2005. For hip containers, you need a 'Microvisor'

So says VMware as it reveals tiny hv and new cut of vSphere

VMworld 2015 VMware has created a new hypervisor and a new variant of its flagship vSphere product, both aimed at containerised computing and “cloud-native apps.”

“Photon Machine” is the name for a new, stripped-back version of ESX that's being cast as a “microvisor”. The Machine is designed to host virtual machines running Photon OS, the stripped-back version of GNU/Linux that VMware announced in April. To manage both, VMware will also release “Photon Controller”, a control plane that will drive the Machine and OS so that it becomes possible to spawn and manage a great many containers.

Together, the three have been dubbed the “Photon Platform” and the sole commercial piece – Photon Machine – will be sold on subscription.

Photon Controller offers a subset of the features you'll find in container-wranglers like Docker or Kubernetes, but can integrate with those tools or Mesos should you wish to do so. Pivotal, an EMC Federation sibling of VMware's, has created a version of Cloud Foundry with Photon Platform baked in.

We'll see Photon Platform later this year. VMware's content to make you wait because it thinks the product will meet the needs of those going all-in with “cloud-native apps” on dedicated infrastructure. Because not many of you are close to doing this, Virtzilla feels you won't mind waiting until later this year to play with Photon Platform in a closed beta.

If you absolutely must start doing containers now, there's a new cut of vSphere – “vSphere Integrated Containers” – to consider. The idea here is to make vSphere better at hosting the kind of rigs container-users desire and thereby to help VMware customers start to use containers without having to learn or build a whole new stack. Stateful services for containers, especially storage, are said to be the big feature here. Integration is again on offer, this time with CoreOS Tectonic, Docker, Kubernetes and Mesosphere's Data Center Operating System. Which should keep the DevOps folk happy.

VMware thinks it can pull off a one-container-one-VM play, which sounds counterintuitive given containers are all about sharing an OS. Virtzilla's feeling is that those dipping their toes into containerised waters will value vSphere's and NSX's many security features even if it means a little extra overhead. It's also trying to keep that overhead low, more of a crawl space really, with a new “Project Bonneville” that uses VMware's instant clone feature to spawn container-carrying-VMs at speed and without calling for colossal resources.

The head of VMware's cloud native apps team, Kit Colbert, said on stage today that micro-virtualistion is the new virtualisation. Just enough hypervisor, he suggested, is enough for containers to run in.

This idea is VMware's shot at interesting developers in its products. Photon Controller will be open-sourced to help things along and Photon OS is already there for the footling. Hooks to vCloud Air mean developers have a lot of the pieces needed to deploy a containerised app waiting for them if they walk VMware's path. The company's even created a dedicated DevOps track here at VMworld 2015 to explain this all in detail.

But VMware is one of many proposing ideas in this field. When it came to prominence with server virtualisation, VMware was soothing pain lots of people felt. Can the same be said of its containerisation efforts? ®

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