The world is certainly transitioning to more of a container mentality from an infrastructure perspective. The push to transition applications to a microservices architecture has helped to drive the push to make use of containers as the underlying application infrastructure. Containers have many advantages over virtual machines when looking at provisioning, managing, and maintaining fast-paced, cloud-driven infrastructure.

VMware vSphere has dominated the enterprise environment when it comes to being “the platform” to running virtual machines. With the recent news coming from VMworld 2019 US, VMware is making a huge push to become the “defacto standard” when it comes to running Kubernetes controlled container clusters in your enterprise environment. VMware announced a major step forward in native Kubernetes container support with vSphere with Project Pacific.

In this post, we will take a look at Kubernetes clusters with VMware Project Pacific.

What is Project Pacific?

Project Pacific is part of an even wider-scoped project from VMware – Tanzu.

Tanzu’s aim is to build a consistent implementation of Kubernetes across environments and Tanzu will make use of Project Pacific to provide an easy and powerful implementation of Kubernetes.

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To get an idea of what Project Pacific is, we can think about how you can implement containers today with VMware vSphere. The options involve solutions that provide “bolt-on” solutions to add container or Kubernetes functionality to VMware vSphere.

An example of this is VMware Enterprise PKS.

The solution is implemented by deploying an OVA appliance to extend the capabilities of vSphere to allow creating Kubernetes clusters.

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Overview of VMware Project Pacific (Image courtesy: VMware)

However, Project Pacific as it is named is a new vSphere platform that has the Kubernetes control plane implemented right into vCenter Server and ESXi server. This includes both the networking and storage requirements. The tight integration and implementation of Kubernetes into vSphere itself provides an easier way to get Kubernetes up and running with all the familiar tools that IT admins are used to with VMware vSphere.

So, it becomes readily apparent that Project Pacific is not just a new feature but rather a completely re-architected version of vSphere that has Kubernetes natively integrated. This allows for both better performance and better security across the board.

Project Pacific allows vSphere to respond to all the native Kubernetes APIs that developers are used to, right from vSphere. This helps you as the IT admin solve many complex and challenging issues in the development pipeline. These include:

  • Siloed infrastructure between both IT ops and developers. This can create difficult challenges with provisioning and managing enterprise applications
  • There are many security issues in and around applications and databases. Creating appropriate isolation boundaries can be very difficult
  • Inconsistent processes, procedures, tools, and APIs can slow down the development lifecycle and workflows between various groups involved, including IT ops and development
  • Long provisioning time for necessary IT infrastructure to service applications
  • Developers face performance and availability issues that Project Pacific helps to solve
  • Kubernetes deployment and day 2 management can be difficult and require specific expertise

Some of the key benefits of Project Pacific are native Kubernetes features that allow Kubernetes to be a part of vSphere and not a bolt-on component of vSphere. Native solutions are generally always best since they provide a much more simple, performant solution for having features and capabilities desired such as Kubernetes.

With this native solution, the control plane for the Kubernetes cluster solution is unified with the current VMware vSphere solution so that compute, storage and network resources are available natively for both virtual machines and containers.

The Project Pacific version of vSphere treats management from the application level instead of at the specific infrastructure level such as virtual machines or containers. Familiar features like
HA, vMotion, and DRS are applied to applications and all the resources that make up these applications. Interestingly, Project Pacific has been noted by VMware to bring these same app-centric capabilities to applications hosted on VMs and not just containers. It is great to see them applying the same new features and tooling to the existing use cases and application landscapes.

IT operations and developers are able to collaborate effectively for the end goal of creating powerful enterprise applications. Developers can use familiar Kubernetes APIs and IT operations can make use of the familiar vSphere management tools and solutions. This helps to provide a consistent platform and view to both IT ops and developers, allowing things to move much more quickly.

Project Pacific, VIC, or PKS?

As you are probably already aware, VMware has several different solutions that can help on the front of containers, and Kubernetes more specifically. What makes the decision on which solution to choose when it comes to containers and Kubernetes?

Well, for today, Project Pacific is not part of the choice that you can make. It is currently only available as a technology preview shown at VMworld 2019 US. This means you can’t officially choose it as part of your architecture to run Kubernetes clusters at the moment. It will most likely be released with the next major release of VMware vSphere.

Currently, VMware Enterprise PKS provided by Pivotal (which VMware recently purchased) is positioned by VMware as the best option for deploying supported Kubernetes clusters in your production environment. PKS will no doubt be melded into the platform along with Project Pacific as the product is brought to general availability. VMware will most likely take the features and functionality of both solutions and bring these together to form their one-stop Kubernetes cluster and container solution.

The vSphere Integrated Containers is certainly one of the technologies that has led to Project Pacific. The vSphere Integrated Containers or VIC is focused on running containers in VMs whereas Project Pacific focuses on running an entire Kubernetes cluster in a single VM. Additionally, with Project Pacific, VMware has adopted the native Kubernetes API for driving the solution, unlike VIC. VIC was more the bolt-on approach, whereas, again, Project Pacific is the native, fully-integrated Kubernetes solution.

To review the options, as of now, you need to use the VMware PKS solution powered by Pivotal to run Kubernetes in your vSphere environment. Eventually, the recommendation will be the version of vSphere powered by Project Pacific as Kubernetes support will be baked right into the platform.

Concluding Thoughts

With the releases and announcements at VMworld 2019, VMware has certainly shown their focus to be full-on Kubernetes. Project Pacific is being touted as one of the most evolutionary steps forward for VMware since vMotion. As your business develops the strategy to make full use of microservice architecture, you will no doubt be looking to make use of container technology driven by Kubernetes.

Project Pacific provides a very interesting and easy approach to being able to use existing infrastructure, tools, and processes to extend past using simply virtual machines and now making use of Kubernetes clusters to drive your applications.

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Kubernetes clusters with VMware Project Pacific
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