Extending the Data Center with VMware AppCatalyst and Project Bonneville

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

The Cloud-Native Apps team at VMware is excited to announce two new tech previews today: VMware AppCatalyst and Project Bonneville.

  • VMware AppCatalyst is an API- and CLI-driven hypervisor purpose-built for developer
  • Project Bonneville is an extension of VMware vSphere that enables seamless support for Docker containers

Before I dive into the specifics of today’s announcements, I’d like to step back and provide some context on the bigger picture.  Back in April, we launched the Cloud-Native Apps effort at VMware with two open source technologies, Project Photon, a lightweight, container-optimized Linux distro, and Lightwave, an identity and access management solution for cloud-native applications.  As we noted then, our mission is clear: to make the developer a first-class user of the datacenter.

The prescloud-vmwaresure on companies to quickly iterate and innovate is greater than ever.  Consumers demand immersive experiences and businesses unable to swiftly provide them will eventually lose out.  The key to success for businesses is to empower development organizations to innovate quickly on differentiating technology.  However, often the datacenter is not built to meet developers’ needs, and instead of helping to accelerate their pace, it inhibits it.  This is exactly what we want to address: how we can make the datacenter work for the developer, which will in turn enable businesses to move faster.

Doing this requires two things: providing the right tools and APIs to help developers go faster, and ensuring IT Ops can manage all these next-gen apps. Striking this balance between optimizing for the developer and IT Ops management is at the crux of our announcements today. Both these new projects take our proven VMware hypervisor, add in Photon, and put a Docker or other container API on top to provide the tools needed for teams to move quickly, and reliably ship code to market. AppCatalyst is focused on the developer’s laptop while Bonneville enhances the capabilities of the datacenter server.  But both enable rapid velocity for developers and management for IT Ops.

Let’s take a more detailed look at each, starting with AppCatalyst. Many developers perform build-test-debug cycles of cloud-native apps directly on their laptop, and to do so, they generally require a hypervisor. However, developers don’t necessarily care to run or manage virtual machines.  Instead, they just want to run their app. AppCatalyst takes our Fusion hypervisor technology, adds in Photon, strips out the UI, and provides an easy-to-use API and CLI. In this model, AppCatalyst handles the VM creation, power-on, etc so the developer can focus on building, running, and testing their app. Over time we’ll add in capabilities around networking and storage to provide a true “datacenter-in-a-box” that will allow developers to locally test apps in a datacenter-like environment. The best part is that AppCatalyst is available today for free.

Bonneville takes a similar approach to AppCatalyst, but is focused on the datacenter. The purpose of Bonneville is to extend a vSphere deployment to expose a Docker API, turning a vSphere host into a Docker host.  Those familiar with the Docker ecosystem will know that we already have docker-machine integration with vSphere. Bonneville offers further improvement in many ways:

  • Bonneville orchestrates all the back-end systems: VM template (with Photon), storage, network, Docker image cache, etc.  It can manage and configure native ESX storage and network primitives automatically as part of a container deploy.
  • Bonneville leverages vSphere’s new Instant Clone feature to rapidly provision low-overhead VMs.  Instant Cloned VMs are powered on and fully booted in under a second and use no physical memory initially.  This enables Bonneville to provision an individual container per VM without minimal overhead, but with all isolation and security protections of VMs.
  • Bonneville updates VM names and metadata fields for the container VMs it creates for full transparency in vCenter and any vSphere ecosystem products.  This enables all existing datacenter tooling to see and manage Docker containers (via the one-container-per-VM model) – no need for new tools or retraining.

We’re really excited about the potential for Bonneville to enable customers to seamlessly extend their vSphere datacenters with support for Docker containers. It’s pretty cool stuff! We’re planning on making Bonneville available through a private beta program later this year.

Leveraging Photon through AppCatalyst and Project Bonneville and building on our April announcements are all part our broader plan to make developers first-class users of the data center. We’re excited to deliver these new capabilities to customers, but we’re even more excited about what else is coming.  We’re planning more for the second half of the year, and hope to see you at VMworld where we’ll tell you more about what we’re up to. Until then, please take AppCatalyst for a spin.  Have fun!