VMware Tanzu Application Platform Reflects PaaS Changes
A VMware Tanzu product launched this week creates a Kubernetes-based PaaS that could compete more closely with Red Hat OpenShift.
The VMware Tanzu Application Platform, now in public beta, will provide a development interface for a pre-integrated set of Kubernetes-based application deployment and infrastructure management tools. The VMware Tanzu portfolio contains VMware’s cloud-native IT automation products that integrate with the Kubernetes container orchestration platform, most of which have been acquired from companies such as Heptio for managing Kubernetes and Pivotal for the Spring Java framework and Cloud Foundry PaaS.
Tanzu Application Platform should not be confused with Tanzu Application Service, which is VMware’s name for what was once Pivotal Cloud Foundry. VMware also has a Tanzu Application Service for Kubernetes product in development that integrates Cloud Foundry.
Tanzu Application Platform focuses on Kubernetes, with no built-in Cloud Foundry elements. In its first iteration, Tanzu Application Platform will provide a workflow for developers to build an application with a declarative manifest and quickly get a test-ready URL on Kubernetes. The first beta will integrate Tekton event-driven pipelines to perform continuous integration testing and orchestrate application deployment to Tanzu Kubernetes Grid clusters.
Ultimately, the goal is to create an organized set of Kubernetes platform and easy-to-use DevOps deployment components for developers, according to VMware officials.
Valentina AlariaDirector of Product Management, VMware
“Organizations we work with believe their developers are going to have a really hard time getting started with Kubernetes,” said Valentina Alaria, director of product management for cloud-native applications at VMware. “They wanted to make sure that a [strong] developer experience would also be applicable in different Kubernetes environments.”
If a development interface that shields app makers from the specifics of complex, highly automated deployment and infrastructure sounds familiar, it should. This was precisely the value proposition of original PaaS players such as Heroku and Cloud Foundry.
Enterprise IT shifted away from these tightly integrated but prescriptively designed platforms in the early days of DevOps, when the concept of full stack developer able to design and run its own application in production was a common aspiration among IT organizations that adopted it early.
However, as DevOps and cloud-native technologies such as Kubernetes and microservices architecture have reached the enterprise mainstream, full-stack developers have proven to be more myth than reality in the context of general skills shortage.
Now the pendulum is swinging back to PaaS, albeit redesigned with greater flexibility, according to Forrester Research analyst Jeffrey Hammond.
“Enough companies have found value in delivery-centric PaaS to want it on top of Kubernetes, so their developers aren’t spending three hours a day tweaking YAML code,” Hammond said. “That’s why OpenShift is so popular.”
Catch up with Red Hat OpenShift
Developer-centric PaaS on Kubernetes isn’t new either – it’s been Red Hat’s value proposition for OpenShift since it ported the platform to a Kubernetes backend in 2014. the most widely adopted Kubernetes platform outside of the public cloud with more than 3,000 enterprise customers to date and top competitor to VMware Tanzu.
The two could be, at least theoretically, complementary – Tanzu Application Platform will be able to run on OpenShift Kubernetes, Alaria said.
But it’s more likely the two will remain separate, said IDC analyst Gary Chen.
“It’s a good concept, but we’ll have to see how it develops,” he said. “A lot of people say things like that, but…they’d rather you performed it on their [version of Kubernetes]. And for a developer, that value proposition isn’t so clear – they don’t care where it works if it works.”
Meanwhile, VMware still has an opportunity to match OpenShift’s influence as its large install base of enterprise customers is just beginning to transition from virtual machines to containers and Kubernetes in production, Hammond said. .
In part, it can do this by offering greater flexibility than OpenShift, which is closely tied to the Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system.
“The Tanzu application platform has the same opportunity [as Red Hat OpenShift] without requiring a particular version of Linux,” he said. “The fact that it’s not soldered to Tanzu Kubernetes Grid is also the right move.”
Where is Cloud Foundry Kubernetes going?
Tanzu Application Platform is also not VMware’s first attempt to combine a smooth development experience with Kubernetes – efforts are underway to move Cloud Foundry’s “cf-push” development interface to Kubernetes. The Tanzu Application Service for Kubernetes, based on the open source cf-for-k8s utility, was unveiled in May 2020 and remains in private beta.
This product was also discussed at the Cloud Foundry Summit in July, when an expected convergence did not materialize between cf-for-k8s and another open source approach for porting Cloud Foundry to Kubernetes, KubeCF. Some members of the Cloud Foundry community have also expressed concerns about the viability of the cf-for-k8s project.
VMware’s Alaria has referred most Tanzu Application Service questions to VMware’s separate management team for that product. No one from that team was available for comment this week. The Tanzu Application Platform team will also explore how customers can deploy it alongside the Tanzu Application Service, she said.
Nothing is certain yet, but if VMware ends up prioritizing Tanzu Application Platform as Kubernetes PaaS, it might not have a negative effect on Cloud Foundry users at this point, Chen said.
“I don’t think it would be the end of the world for Cloud Foundry and Kubernetes to stay separate, with new applications deployed on Tanzu Application Platform,” he said. “The math may have changed. … The strategy may be to leave older things alone.”
Beth Pariseau, Senior Writer at TechTarget, is an award-winning veteran of IT journalism. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @PariseauTT.