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VMware PKS adds Heptio IP, boosts container street cred

VMware adds bare-metal Kubernetes and an elite support squad from Heptio, but it's unlikely to get widespread interest with bespoke container orchestration on premises.

VMware PKS bore the first fruits of the Heptio acquisition this week, but there's a lot more ground to cover before VMware raises its profile among enterprise Kubernetes early adopters.

VMware Essential PKS, rolled out this week, is a rerelease of Heptio Kubernetes Subscription (HKS) with no technical changes but rebrands Heptio's Kubernetes experts as VMware Kubernetes Architects.

VMware Essential PKS targets enterprise users outside VMware's server virtualization customer base with support for Kubernetes on bare metal, in contrast to the existing VMware PKS (now dubbed VMware Enterprise PKS), a turnkey package that blends Kubernetes with infrastructure software from VMware and Pivotal. These customers will be interested in custom Kubernetes stacks based on open source components, but will need enterprise-level support to get up to speed, according to VMware.

"This is probably a very small part of the market for VMware overall, kind of a side benefit of the Heptio acquisition," said Gary Chen, an analyst at IDC. "There are probably some very large, important VMware customers who want this for private clouds, but the main thrust with Heptio will be to improve VMware's position in the open source community where VMware needs developer and cloud-native credibility."

VMware PKS products
VMware PKS product line, which now includes Heptio IP

VMware fashionably late to Kubernetes party

Most enterprises have yet to put containers and Kubernetes into production, so VMware has lots of opportunity to capture an audience with Heptio's IP, though it also has lots of competition in on-premises and private cloud Kubernetes management.

Red Hat's OpenShift Container Platform will reach version 4.0 this year, and has offered enterprise Kubernetes support for more than three years. Google Kubernetes Engine also offers on-premises functions, and large enough enterprise accounts can command support from Kubernetes bigwigs at Google, Microsoft and Amazon as they evaluate custom Kubernetes deployments.

Thus, enterprise VMware shops sense that the tide will turn toward cloud providers such as Amazon and Google for managed cloud services for a majority of enterprise container users. Here, VMware offers the Cloud PKS managed service, but its cachet pales in comparison to the big cloud providers.

VMware has strengths as an infrastructure company, and Pivotal brings strength on the developer side, but they need to connect those two sides more effectively.
Gary Chenanalyst, IDC

"VMware came to the party late [with cloud PKS], and by the time they [offered their] solution we were like, 'Meh, why?'" said Gary McKay, release manager at Somos, a registry management vendor for telecommunications customers, based in East Brunswick, N.J. "I don't see VMware as an option for us long term."

Somos still runs an on-premises infrastructure based on vSphere but uses Amazon EKS for container-based apps. Kubernetes has a steep learning curve, but even though Somos is a relatively small shop with about 25 developers, the company still spends enough with AWS to access Kubernetes experts at Amazon for questions about Kubernetes application deployment, McKay said.

With Heptio, VMware wants to change such impressions among enterprises. Heptio, in particular co-founders and Kubernetes co-creators Craig McLuckie and Joe Beda, raise VMware's profile in open source, where it must overcome a lasting reputation as a proprietary software vendor. The likes of McLuckie and Beda will also add to VMware's clout in the upstream Kubernetes community. But results from those aspects of the acquisition will take time to filter into products, while competitors continue to further their reach as well.

"VMware has strengths as an infrastructure company, and Pivotal brings strength on the developer side, but they need to connect those two sides more effectively," Chen said.

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