Yesterday, at VMworld 2017, Pivotal Inc announced Pivotal Container Service and a partnership with Google for Hybrid Cloud. Pivotal Container Service (PKS) is made available based on Kubo project which integrates Kubernetes with BOSH. The infrastructure orchestration plane for CloudFoundry. Pivotal Container Service if the commercial offering for Kubo and the partnership with Google will allow customers of Pivotal Container Service to use a hybrid environment between VMware infrastructure inside the data center and Google Container Engine (GKE) on the public cloud.
What it means for Pivotal
Pivotal CloudFoundry (PCF) has gained good enterprise traction in the past several years (which is reflected, in some sense, on the revenue claims made by Pivotal for the past few years). However, the momentum around Docker containers since 2014 and the momentum around Kubernetes project in the past two years are adding pressure on Pivotal as they march towards their rumored IPO. Pivotal CloudFoundry platform got their traction in the market due to the developer centric approach they took in building their platform. Even though Kubernetes has its operational roots, some of the developer centric platform offerings in the Kubernetes ecosystem, like Red Hat’s OpenShift and others, is creating competition to PCF in the market. Based on our conversations with enterprise decision makers and our conversations with vendors, it is pretty evident that Pivotal sales teams face questions about Kubernetes as they go into the market. Clearly, Pivotal needs a response to the Kubernetes story.
One way to compete is to highlight the technical strength of CloudFoundry platform against Kubernetes and find a way to sell into enterprise accounts. But the momentum in Kubernetes is too strong for Pivotal to spend their sales cycles fighting Kubernetes. A smarter move is to support Kubernetes and add a layer of abstraction to hide its complexities. This is exactly what Pivotal is trying to achieve with this announcement. The key thing to notice here is BOSH as the glue to Kubernetes world (more about it later).
What it means to VMware
Ever since public clouds pulled the rug from underneath VMware, they are struggling with a credible public cloud story. Finally, they are narrowing down on a hybrid cloud story with a multi-cloud component. Moreover, containers are turning out to be an Achilles heel in VMware’s cloud playbook. The reality facing VMware is to have a credible story involving public cloud and containers. In spite of recent announcements in VMworld, they are far away from having a credible story on this front. With Pivotal’s investment in BOSH and VMware’s efforts to build a credible hybrid story in the multi-cloud world, there is an opportunity in front of them. They have started with a partnership with AWS where VMware’s Cloud Foundation is available for customers to use. Let us cut the slack here and call out the customers who will benefit from this partnership. They are the existing VMware customers wanting to go the AWS route without much of disruption. If VMware has to gain interest in new customers who are doubling down on the cloud, they need to go much beyond v-services on AWS and other public cloud providers. They need to make vSphere the orchestration plane for infrastructure services (be it public or private). Selling multi-cloud infrastructure services is difficult because of the user experience problem with multi-cloud infrastructure. This becomes even more damning when VMware is not one of the public cloud providers in this multi-cloud world. This is where Pivotal’s investment on BOSH comes handy. If Pivotal, through their application platform route, can make BOSH the standard for orchestrating infrastructure services in the multi-cloud world, VMware with their v-services as front end can stay as a credible player attracting newer customers focussed on digital transformation.
What it means to Kubernetes
To be blunt, nothing. Kubernetes community doesn’t care how the software is packaged. Whether it is VMware or Red Hat or AWS or Microsoft or any of the startups in the community, all they care is about having Kubernetes in more places. But I am long arguing that Kubernetes is the Google’s trojan horse in the enterprise to eventually get the enterprise workloads on Google Cloud. This strategy is nothing new to Google. They successfully used Chromecast as the trojan horse to gain market share in the home media room market. It is a similar gameplay with the enterprises. Google doesn’t care who takes Kubernetes into enterprise data centers. All they care is to provide an easy on-ramp to Google Cloud in their competition against AWS and Azure. This partnership with Pivotal provides them another opportunity.
What it means to Enterprise Customers
If you are a satisfied VMware shop, your IT modernization story runs through VMware and you are well-taken care off. If you are a Pivotal customer, you just put a check against Kubernetes in the Modern Enterprise checklist. If you are a customer wondering what is right for you, here are your choices:
- If you are ok to outsource your infrastructure decisions to Pivotal/VMware, betting on Pivotal is the way to go
- If you prefer Pivotal’s approach to application platform against, say, OpenShift, this will help you with multi-cloud strategy
- If you are not sure, we strongly recommend you do the homework on the acquisition costs, lock-in costs, training costs, etc. to make a decision. There are other multi-cloud platforms available in the market
In short, Pivotal’s offering is a credible path to a digital transformation involving a multi-cloud story but it is important for you to decide if you want BOSH to be your multi-cloud orchestration engine.
Virtual Panel on VMworld: We are hosting a Virtual panel to discuss the announcements at VMworld on Tuesday, Sept 5th 2017 at 11 AM PST. You can watch it live here.