Cloud-Native Apps: Making Developers First-Class Users of Datacenters

By Kit Colbert, vice president & CTO, Cloud-Native Apps at VMware

Today’s an exciting day for the Cloud-Native Apps team at VMware (read press release).  We’re excited to share our vision with the world, and to back it up with concrete project announcements. Before getting too far ahead of myself, let’s take a step back and reexamine the larger context in which the industry is operating and why we started the Cloud-Native Apps team.

It begins with how end-user expectations are evolving. Consumers expect deeper connections with businesses through software, and companies are increasingly pressed to differentiate through the software-based services they offer. User experience trumps everything, and companies must rapidly iterate to satisfy a fast-evolving market. This means IT is more important than ever: it’s no longer a cost-center, but instead is a critical area of innovation.

In this context, developers and in-house development groups are becoming more important. Companies are looking at new technologies and processes like DevOps, agile, Linux containers, and microservices-based applications to speed software development and push features into production as quickly as possible. But most enterprises run into challenges when trying to use all of these technologies.

That’s where the VMware Cloud-Native Apps team comes in. We’ve heard loud and clear from customers that they’d like help transforming their IT practices and environments. They need end-to-end solutions that simplify their consumption of new technologies, and push developer-built features to production and the end-user even faster. So today we’re extending VMware’s perspective to include not just IT operations teams, but developers as well.

With this in mind, the Cloud-Native Apps team at VMware was created with one primary goal: to make the developer a first-class user of the data center.

Too often this just isn’t the case.  Many enterprise data centers are too cumbersome for developers to use.  Developers end up filing tickets when they’d rather call an API. They have to wait hours or days (or weeks!) to provision new systems that are needed in seconds. On the whole, they’re exposed to a tremendous amount of unneeded complexity. We’ve attacked that complexity through our software-defined data center architecture to enable a highly automated, easily managed cloud featuring self-service catalog capabilities, but we continue to see ways to simplify data center usage for the developer.

Instead of the developer having to change for the data center, we’re adjusting the data center for the developer. In doing so, we have a few imperatives:

  • Build technologies that span the app lifecycle, from the developer’s laptop to the production stack
  • Help operations teams manage Cloud-Native apps while maintaining security, performance, and ease-of-use
  • Participate in the community by building and interfacing with open systems and standards

We have a big charter and a lot of work in front of us. Since we can’t do everything at once, we have to focus and prioritize. As we’ve talked with customers, a top-of-mind concern across the board was security. Many of these new cloud-native solutions have exciting features and capabilities, but many are also missing critical security capabilities.

Our announcements today are about security for next-gen apps. Security has many considerations and our focus areas here are three-fold: identity, network security, and a secure container runtime. In this context, we’re excited to announce two new technologies that VMware is releasing as open source projects:

  • Lightwave: an industry-first container identity and access control  solution (read the blog post)
  • Photon: a lightweight, Linux container host runtime optimized for running containers optimized for VMware’s hypervisors and the software-defined data center (read the blog post)

These projects, in combination with the open community work taking place in the Open Virtual Network (OVN) project, will help to create a security ecosystem for containers. Photon, Lightwave, and OVN will be critical building blocks that we and our partners can use to create compelling and differentiated next-gen app solutions.

We’re excited to work closely in the coming months with incredible partners on container and next-gen app security initiatives. We will collaborate with:

  • CoreOS to support the appc spec
  • Intel to provide greater security throughout the infrastructure stack, and
  • Mesosphere on efficient, secure orchestration and scheduling solutions.

We’re also partnering with JFrog and HashiCorp to ensure that we’ve packaged these technologies for painless delivery to developers and DevOps teams. And of course, we’re working with Pivotal to ensure that Cloud Foundry and Lattice are solidly supported by secure VMware infrastructure.

There’s a tremendous amount of work to do here – not just on the security front – but also across the board. You’ll hear more from us throughout the year, and beyond. For now, we encourage you to visit our technologies home page and start testing things out.

In the meantime, we urge you to read our partners’ perspective on today’s news and how we will work together moving forward: