VMWare's Rajiv Ramaswami, Cloud Services COO, has told investors that VMs (virtual machines) are here to stay, even as container-based applications grow in popularity. Well, he would, wouldn't he.
Analysts questioning Ramaswami at a conference organised by investment banking firm Stifel were speculating that the portability of containers and the fact that they can run on systems like AWS Fargate, Microsoft Azure Container Instances or Google's Cloud Run could threaten VMware's business. Kubernetes, an open-source system for orchestrating containers, runs on many different platforms.
Serverless products like AWS Lambda, Azure Functions and Google Cloud Functions are even more fully abstracted – but using proprietary cloud services locks you into a specific vendor.
Ramaswami said that several factors will keep businesses hooked on VMs. Companies have legacy as well as modern containerized applications, and "they would like to manage one infrastructure that can support all of these different applications". This means that customers are "consolidating everything into a single VM-based environment", he claimed.
The VMware exec also said that far from being a lock-in, VMware infrastructure is portable. "With that VMware platform, you get the ability to build the application there and run it in one cloud or the other or even move it back onto your environment."
If you want VMware on public cloud, "our VMware cloud on AWS is our preferred choice", said Ramaswami – but he is also happy to point to third-party products like Dell's collaboration with Microsoft to prove that you have choices.
VMware is deeply embedded in many organisations and the idea of VMware on public cloud has obvious appeal for administrators who want to lift and shift applications and keep using familiar tools.
Still, it is hard to see public cloud as a long-term win for VMware. Even "serverless" platforms run on VMs, but generally not VMware as the big cloud providers have their own virtualization technology.
Portability is a plus but it is obvious that if portability is a primary goal, open source is the best place to look. This is one of the reasons Kubernetes is appealing. Pivotal (spun out of EMC and VMware in 2012) offers the Pivotal Container Service (PKS), which you can deploy on public or private clouds, though PKS uses a fair amount of VMware technology and probably runs best on VMware. For portability, the open-source Cloud Foundry container runtime managed by the Cloud Foundry Foundation, and on which PKS is based, may be a better place to look than PKS itself.
Those existing applications are not going away, and as Ramaswami said, in general they need to run on VMs. VMware's relationship with the public cloud providers, following the failure of vCloud Air in 2017, is in some ways a curious one – why should customers pay VMware as well as public cloud providers who have their own virtualization platforms? But the industry is sufficiently wedded to VMware technology that it makes some sense. ®