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Understand VMware Tanzu, Pacific, and Kubernetes for VMware Administrators

This post was last updated 26/10/2019 and provides an overview of VMware Tanzu and Project Pacific.

Peanut Butter & Jelly VMware and Kubernetes

There will be more apps deployed in the next 5 years than in the last 40 years (source: Introducing Project Pacific: Transforming vSphere into the App Platform of the Future). The VMware strategy of late has seen a significant shift towards cloud agnostic software and the integration of cloud-native application development. In November 2018 VMware announced the Acquisition of Heptio to help accelerate enterprise adoption of Kubernetes on-premise and across multi-cloud environments. In May and August 2019 VMware announced its intent to Acquire Bitnami and Pivotal Software, following the successful launch of Pivotal Container Service (PKS) which was later re-branded VMware Enterprise PKS.

To help better address application support complexities between development and operations teams, VMware have now announced VMware Tanzu:

“In Swahili, ’tanzu’ means the growing branch of a tree. In Japanese, ’tansu’ refers to a modular form of cabinetry. At VMware, Tanzu represents our growing portfolio of solutions to help you build, run and manage modern apps.”

VMware Tanzu is a portfolio of capabilities that empowers cloud-native development by enabling build, run, and manage operations across platforms. Using VMware Tanzu Mission Control Kubernetes clusters can be built and managed from a single control point.

Another key announcement alongside VMware Tanzu was code-named Project Pacific; enabling IT operators and developers to build and run modern applications with VMware vSphere and native Kubernetes. Project Pacific is focused on re-architecting vSphere for Kubernetes containers to run along side VMware Virtual Machines (VMs) in ESXi, enabling the development of portable cloud-native applications and micro-services, whilst protecting existing investments in products and skills. You can review the press release of all products in the VMware Tanzu portfolio here, and the split of build, run, manage products here.

Introduction to Kubernetes

Kubernetes is an open-source orchestration and management tool that provides a simple Application Programming Interface (API), exposing a set of capabilities for defining workloads and services. Kubernetes enables containers to run and operate in a production-ready environment at enterprise scale by managing and automating resource utilisation, failure handling, availability, configuration, scale, and desired state. Micro-services can be rapidly published, maintained, and updated.

Kubernetes managed containers and containers package applications and their dependencies into a distributed image that can run almost anywhere, simplifying application path to live. Kubernetes makes it easier to run applications across multiple cloud platforms, accelerates application development and deployment, increases agility, flexibility, and the ability to adapt to change.

For VMware administrators with little exposure to DevOps the following high level resources can help set a foundation understanding of Kubernetes, and why VMware are making some of these key changes in architecture and strategy. You can try Kubernetes for yourself using the Kubernetes Academy by VMware, or a Kind Way to Learn Kubernetes.

Kubernetes for Executives: “Containers encapsulate an application in a form that’s portable and easy to deploy. Containers can run on any compatible system—in any
cloud—without changes. Containers consume resources efficiently, enabling high density and utilization. Kubernetes makes it possible to deploy and run complex applications requiring multiple containers by clustering physical or virtual resources for application hosting. Kubernetes is extensible, self-healing, scales applications automatically, and is inherently multi-cloud.”

Introduction to Project Pacific (Run)

Kubernetes uses a cluster of nodes to distribute container instances. The master node is the management plane containing the API server and scheduling capabilities. Worker nodes make up the control plane and act as compute resources for running workloads (known as pods). VMware have re-designed vSphere to include a Kubernetes control plane for managing Kubernetes workloads on ESXi hosts. The control plane is made up of a supervisor cluster using ESXi as the worker nodes, allowing workloads or pods to be deployed and run natively in the hypervisor, along side traditional Virtual Machine workloads. This new functionality is provided by a new container runtime built into ESXi called CRX. CRX optimises the Linux kernel and hypervisor, and strips some of the traditional heavy config of a Virtual Machine enabling the binary image and executable code to be quickly loaded and booted. The container runtime is able to produce some of the performance benchmarks VMware have been publishing, such as improvements even over bare metal, in combination with ESXi’s powerful scheduler.

To ensure containers are running in pods an agent called a Kubelet runs on Kubernetes cluster nodes. With the supervisor cluster the role of the Kubelet agent is handled by a new ‘Spherelet’ running on each ESXi host. Pods are created on a network internal to the Kubernetes nodes. By default pods cannot talk to each other across the cluster of nodes unless a Service is created. A Service in Kubernetes allows a group of pods to be exposed by a common IP address, helping define network routing and load balancing policies without having to understand the IP addressing of individual pods.

Another of the great features of Kubernetes is namespaces. Namespaces are commonly used to provide multi-tenancy across applications or users, and to manage resource quotas (backed in this instance by vSphere Resource Pools) . Kubernetes namespaces segment resources for large teams working on a single Kubernetes cluster. Resources can have the same name as long as they belong to different namespaces, think of them as sub-domains and the Kubernetes cluster as the root domain the namespace gets attached to. Multiple namespaces can exist within the supervisor cluster, with different storage policies assigned to them, for persistent storage, etc.

Kubernetes can be accessed through a GUI known as the Kubernetes dashboard, or through a command-line tool called kubectl. Both query the Kubernetes API server to get or manage the state of various resources like pods, deployments, and services. Labels assigned to pods can be used to look up pods belonging to the same application, tier, or service. With Project Pacific; developers use Kubernetes APIs to access the Software Defined Data Centre (SDDC) and ultimately consume Kubernetes clusters as a service using the same application deployment tools they use currently. This service is delivered by Infrastructure Operations teams using existing vSphere tools, with the flexibility of running Kubernetes workloads and Virtual Machine workloads side by side.

By applying application focused management Project Pacific allows application level control over policies, quota, and role-based access for Developers. Service features provided by vSphere such as High Availability (HA), Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) and vMotion can be applied at application level across Virtual Machines and containers. Unified visibility in vCenter for Kubernetes clusters, containers, and existing Virtual Machines is provided for a consistent view between Developers and Infrastructure Operations alike.

The following resources provide further reading on Project Pacific for enabling Kubernetes on vSphere.

Project_Pacific

Introduction to VMware Tanzu Mission Control (Manage)

VMware Tanzu Mission Control brings together Kubernetes clusters providing operator consistency for deployment, configuration, security, and policy enforcement across multiple clouds, whilst maintaining developer independence and self-service.

VMware Tanzu Mission Control is a Software as a Service (SaaS) control plane offering allowing administrators to deploy, monitor, and manage ALL Kubernetes clusters from a single point of control. The beauty of this approach is that lifecycle management, access management, health and diagnostics, security and configuration policies, quota management, and backup or restore capabilities are all consolidated into a single toolset.  Kubernetes clusters running on vSphere, VMware Enterprise or Essential PKS, Public Cloud (AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform), and managed services or other implementations can all be attached to VMware Tanzu Mission Control. New Kubernetes clusters can also be deployed to all of these platforms from the Tanzu Mission Control interface.

For more information on VMware Tanzu Mission Control see the product page here, and Introducing VMware Tanzu Mission Control to Bring Order to Cluster Chaos. If you are attending VMworld Europe 2019 have a look through VMware Tanzu Sessions in the content catalog and also Explore Kubernetes at VMworld 2019. At the time of writing VMware Tanzu and Project Pacific are in tech preview, this post will be updated when more information is released. Please use the comments section below if you feel there are any key elements missing or not explained clearly. There are some additional useful video tutorials available from the Project Pacific at Tech Field Day Extra at VMworld 2019,