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VMware's K8s challenge advances with Tanzu Community Edition

Freebie can manage production container workloads in rival clouds

VMworld VMware's biggest admirers are also among its biggest challenges to growth.

Those admirers are the operations types who have become VMware's champions inside customers – because server consolidation, then private clouds, and now hybrid clouds elevated them from back-room wonks to money-saving, agility-enhancing stars.

But VMware has struggled to elicit the same ardour from developers. And developers are more likely than ops types to appreciate Virtzilla's new Kubernetes-centric application development and management platform: Tanzu.

VMware is also a little miffed that customers don't appreciate the breadth of its stack. Senior execs have told The Register they go into meetings and are surprised customers are not across even established product lines like VMware's end-user computing products – never mind Tanzu.

What to do? VMware has decided to give Tanzu away, in a "Community Edition" – a free and complete Kubernetes stack that runs on a workstation packing a pair of CPUs, 6GB of RAM (8GB under Windows), and with Docker Desktop and Kubectl installed. Kubernetes clusters can be created locally, or on Azure, AWS, or resources tended by vSphere.

The Community Edition includes a Kubernetes runtime, load balancing, ingress management, networking, and container registry management. It even includes observability & monitoring, policy management, and diagnostics tools that VMware does not include in its lowest-end Tanzu package, the Basic Edition.

VMware told The Register the package "does not have a limit on the number of containers/VMs that can deployed" and is "unencumbered by expiration, scaling restrictions, or functional limitations".

Why so generous? Virtzilla's intentions are didactic and commercial: the product is offered "for learners and users, especially those working in small-scale or preproduction environments".

There's also something in the bundle for those already running Kubernetes with other providers such as Google or AWS – even the AWS EKS services that only runs inside vSphere! – because the starter version of Tanzu Mission Control included with the Community Edition can take on management duties of existing K8s environments.

By giving away a broad and capable package that gives experimenters a taste of its container platform, VMware clearly believes it can interest more customers in Tanzu. Maybe some of them will be ops types who see it as a way to familiarise themselves with K8s to improve their skills. Maybe some will be developers who want to check out their options.

Whoever takes it for a spin will be tempted to run real workloads with the Community Edition.

And VMware knows that's often how platforms get a foothold. Nutanix and Veeam have both had considerable success with free bundles that are ready for real work while also transparently being on-ramps to purchases and wider deployments.

Both companies used Community Editions because they were challengers in their fields – just like VMware has tacitly admitted it is with Kubernetes. Which may not be a bad thing. They say admitting you have a problem is the first step towards solving it. ®

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