The old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” did not apply to VMware when it came to developing vSphere Integrated Containers (VIC). Rather, we took the concept of something that was working in spades and created a product with even more functionality.
Docker, an open platform for developers and system administrators to build, ship and run distributed applications, was the main inspiration behind VIC. Docker’s ease of use made the technology the perfect foundation for VIC, according to Simone Morellato, director of technical product management at VMware.
“Deploying enterprise applications with Docker is as easy as installing iPhone applications on your phone,” Morellato said. “Before Docker, getting an enterprise application deployed was hard, error-prone and lengthy. Docker made it very easy to package applications and run them everywhere.”
Due to its simple initial setup process and speed of deployment, Docker is becoming increasingly popular among developers. The Docker Hub, a public registry where container images are stored, makes retrieving these images and running them on any device or operating system a breeze. With Docker, it’s just one command.
Figure 1: Top 2 reasons why Docker got popular: The Docker Hub with ready to use applications and 1-Command CLI to deploy
The goal was to bring this same experience to vSphere, VMware’s own data center and cloud operating system. Thus, a Docker-compatible container runtime was embedded into vSphere, and the vSphere Integrated Container Engine was born. A developer can now initiate Docker run on a given Docker image and VIC will take it from Docker Hub and build it as a virtual machine (VM) onto vSphere.
Figure 2: Container runtime embedded into vSphere
“With VIC, developers can self-provision applications directly to vSphere without having to wait,” Morellato explained. “More importantly, [VIC] gives them an enterprise-grade platform to run their applications.”
That distinction is where VIC outshines the platform that inspired it. vSphere’s enterprise readiness combines with the speed and agility of Docker to deliver a more advanced platform in VIC. As Morellato notes, “VIC really combines the best of Docker and the best of vSphere.”
But that’s not all of the value VIC brings to the table. The integration with vSphere means there are numerous additional benefits that come from using VIC. For starters, containers and VMs can co-exist in the same vSphere environment. This gives IT administrators the ability to run traditional and microservices-based applications side by side within the same vSphere infrastructure. This means they don’t have to install any new software or learn how to operate a new technology.
As for virtual container hosts in VIC, they are backed by a resource pool. Everything is backed up from this pool, giving VI administrators the ability to dynamically adjust resources to the virtual Docker hosts. Additionally, ecosystem tools available for VMs can be used to manage and monitor containers. VMware’s Network Virtualization and Security Platform is also integrated into VIC for micro segmentation and networking.
Finally, vCenter operations work with containers in VIC in the same manner they do with other VMs. A big feature that was recently added is shared storage, which has become the talk of the town in the container field.
Figure 3: The Value Proposition of vSphere Integrated Containers
Containers were designed to be ephemeral by nature, so shared storage is difficult for other container orchestrations tools to achieve. However, it’s easy for VIC to pull off because VMs were designed to have persistent storage, which is something most enterprise applications require. This positions VIC as a go-to platform for enterprises.
As for differences in the user experience between Docker and VIC, they’re practically non-existent. In fact, Morellato notes developers can’t really tell the difference between the two. “VIC makes their life easier since concerns like persistent storage, high-availability and clustering are all taken care of and developers don’t have to re-factor their applications to package them in the container format if they deploy them on VIC.”
By capitalizing on all that makes Docker great and expanding on it to make a platform better suited to developers and enterprises, don’t be surprised to see VIC stealing the popularity crown from Docker in the near future.