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VMware administrators wondering how best to support containers in production environments have a new suite of management capabilities nested within the familiar vSphere framework.
While still in the early days, containers are following a trajectory similar to virtual machines. The technology is first adopted in test and development, then deployed into production. Early adopters had a specific use case, but over time adoption became almost universal. Over this period of increasing adoption, hypervisor vendors added important features and developed advanced management tools. Container management gets a lot easier with the help of VMware Admiral.
Some organizations have used containers in production for specialized cases for a few years. Recently, more developers have found a use for containers. Now we are seeing a phase of more widespread adoption. For customers who want to use containers alongside existing VMs, VMware's vSphere Integrated Containers (VIC) offers an approach that fits within their existing infrastructure.
The latest in VIC 1.0
One of the primary requirements for mainstream enterprise adoption is robust management capabilities. This is one area where VMware seems to be focusing its engineering. An interface that works extremely well for a developer may not suit an enterprise with dozens of different applications. VMware added multiple management interfaces for VIC that suit the needs of developers, application support teams and IT operations.
The first management interface is the native Docker command line. VIC exposes the command line through a virtual container host. The Docker command line will be familiar to developers who have used it to deploy containers on their laptops. However, the challenge with the Docker command line is that it's aimed squarely at software developers. Enterprise IT operations staff are not typically developers and don't have much experience with the Docker command line.
The latest VIC release includes tools to make container management more accessible to IT operations. VMware's tools also give staff more granular visibility of host resources to help make container placement decisions.
Directing a container fleet with VMware Admiral
If VMware customers want to use the same tools for managing both container and non-container applications, then vRealize Automation (vRA) 7.2 is a great fit. Administrators can use vRA to deploy containers similar to how they deploy VM-based applications. This integration is particularly useful because containers are used to implement new features for existing applications that are installed in VMs. One example is putting a website in front of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system so that customers could see the status of their orders. The ERP system remains inside VMs while the web application could be deployed in containers.
Using the same tool to deploy both parts of an application simplifies operations. Container management is new to vRA 7.2 and is provided by a component called VMware Admiral.
VMware Admiral provides a web interface to deploy containers from images in a registry. The registry can be the public Docker Hub or an on-premises registry, such as VMware's Harbor. For more complex requirements, Admiral works with multiple container hosts and applies placement and resource management rules. VMware Admiral provides resource controls for containers as well as limits on CPU and RAM consumption -- which can be useful in a development or test environment where several developers share a set of container hosts.
VMware Admiral can be used as a graphical user interface (GUI) for deploying applications in containers. The GUI replicates much of the functionality for launching container applications from the Docker command line, and allows the settings to be saved as a template. Some of the properties you can set include:
- Which Docker image to launch;
- The number of containers to start and what to do if containers exit or crash;
- Bridged or private networking;
- Expose network ports;
- Persistent volumes for data storage;
- Instance health monitoring;
- Logging configuration; and
- CPU shares and RAM limits.
These capabilities allow organizations to easier manage Docker containers in production. Once an organization has deployed containers, Admiral provides real-time status information about the containers and hosts for ongoing management.
VMware Admiral provides container-centered GUI management for teams that are not familiar or comfortable with the Docker command line. As enterprise production deployment of containers continues we can expect to see VMware bring additional management functionality to vSphere Integrated Containers.
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