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VMblog's Expert Interviews: Part 2 - Diamanti Talks Managing Kubernetes and Docker Containers. Alternatives to DIY and Pros and Cons.

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Last week I spoke to Diamanti CEO Jeff Chou about what enterprises need to consider before adopting a container strategy. In the first part of this two-part series, Chou walked us through the main considerations to address in your overall strategy, specific concerns that containers raise and why he is not a fan of DIY. In the second part of the series, we take a deeper look at alternatives to DIY and assess their respective pros and cons.

VMblog:  So maybe DIY isn't what you want to do after all?  Are your main alternatives simply a choice of different VM-based solutions versus bare metal and DIY?

Jeff Chou:  Many vendors see the enormous opportunity to help companies with containers. The major players who already have large installed customer bases are offering converged and hyper-converged infrastructure solutions to reduce the complexity of IT infrastructure deployment. They're either converged infrastructure (CI) solutions that pre-package several servers with a separate storage array or they are hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) products that combine servers with internal storage, network and compute to virtualize that storage, and virtualization software such as VMware vSphere. 

These solutions can be deployed for use in container environments. However, as a class, they are designed for virtualization rather than containers, making bare-metal container deployment impossible in almost all cases. The vendors themselves remain largely focused on virtualization. Therefore, the level of support you'll get from a vendor for everything in the infrastructure stack above virtualization is going to be minimal. You may have to rely on the open-source community for container and orchestration support.

VMblog:  What about container solutions that rely on VMware vSphere?

Chou:  A variety of CI and HCI solutions have been optimized for VMware vSphere. By far the best known of these are the VxRail, VxBlock, and VxRack solutions from Dell EMC. These solutions simplify hardware deployment, but require you to run your container environment on top of the ESXi hypervisor. 

Once the hardware is deployed, you have three commercially-supported paths to deploy containers:

  • vSphere Integrated Containers (VIC). VIC provides a Docker-compatible container engine, a container management portal, and a container registry, allowing containers to run in VMs along with other virtualized workloads. It requires vSphere vCenter.
  • Photon Controller. Photon Controller is an open source project from VMware that allows you to cluster a number of hosts running the VMware ESXi hypervisor exclusively for the purpose of running containers. It lets you have your choice of orchestration frameworks and does not require VMware vCenter.
  • Pivotal Container Service (PKS). Announced at VMworld in 2017, PKS combines Pivotal Cloud Foundry with Kubernetes and the Harbor container registry, all running on top of VMware vSphere and VSAN. PKS is envisioned as a validated solution, meaning installation of the software components remains a do-it-yourself effort.

The main advantage of the virtual machine approach is the range of choices, which can also be a disadvantage. Alas, you also get a lot of cons:

  • No bare-metal deployment.
  • VMware licensing costs and higher management overhead drive up TCO.
  • No full-stack support.
  • Bewildering range of choices.
  • Complex software deployment.
  • Virtualization plus network limitations reduce container density.

VMblog:  What about Nutanix?  They remove the VMware licensing cost, right?

Chou:  The main benefit of the Nutanix approach is that it eliminates the expensive VMware licensing costs. Nutanix is the best-known and most widely deployed HCI solution other than the Dell EMC options just described. Nutanix hardware arrives pre-installed with the virtualization stack, making the hardware straightforward to deploy. That leaves a number of software installation and configuration steps to get containers running on the platform, including installation of the latest version of Nutanix Acropolis Container Services (ACS) and installation of the Docker ecosystem on top of virtual machines running Linux. 

Container orchestration in the Nutanix environment remains a moving target at this time. While it may be possible to implement orchestration solutions, it remains a do-it-yourself project for now. Nutanix has announced the intention to support Kubernetes in association with Google beginning in 2018.

As with VMware solutions, you are beholden to Nutanix networking capabilities for your container environment. Nutanix best practices for containers so far have little to say on the subject of networking. With this approach we keep many of the same cons as with vSphere, but with unclear orchestration support. Those problems include:

  • No bare-metal deployment.
  • No full-stack support.
  • Virtualization reduces container density.
  • Complex software deployment and management, adds to TCO.

VMblog:  So, if I want the benefits of DIY bare-metal performance and the convenience and reliability of a commercially-supported solution, what are my options?

Chou:  To get to bare metal without DIY, you'll need help with your Docker containers and Kubernetes. This is my commercial now, but bear with me. Diamanti built the first infrastructure appliance designed for containerized applications. It combines the ease of use of hyper-converged infrastructure with the unparalleled performance and efficiency of bare-metal containers. 

The Diamanti appliance integrates everything-hardware and software-out of the box, so it can be fully deployed and operational in minutes. You'll be able to start running containerized applications immediately, without having to spend weeks or months setting up a DIY solution.

Open-source software, including Docker, CentOS, and Kubernetes, is pre-installed and ready to run containers, so there's no vendor lock-in. The environment can be managed by anyone familiar with these open-source tools; an intuitive UI makes managing and monitoring the appliance simple, even for those without prior infrastructure management experience.

To scale, simply add appliances to a cluster. Because containers run on bare-metal, container density is extremely high; hardware utilization approaches 90%. A built-in converged I/O controller virtualizes network and storage for containers, guaranteeing application performance without code changes or customization. The Diamanti architecture delivers order-of-magnitude latency improvements -- 1,000,000+ IOPs and 15 minutes to deployed container infrastructure -- compared with traditional shared-storage systems and software overlays.

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Published Wednesday, January 31, 2018 7:31 AM by David Marshall
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