VMware CEO: Container Tech Doesn't Threaten Our Business, And Could Help It

In VMware's second-quarter earnings call last month, CEO Pat Gelsinger was asked to comment on the competitive threat Linux container technology could pose to the vendor's virtualization business.

This surely wasn't the first time Gelsinger has fielded this question, and it certainly won't be the last. As evidenced by the success of Docker, the commercial arm of the open source Docker framework, container technology has become a hot technology in the enterprise because of its ability to solve difficult IT challenges.

Docker lets developers and system administrators build, ship and run distributed applications across different clouds, and it's used to package and automate deployment of applications, databases and back-end systems.

Related: Docker Unveils Enterprise-Grade Container System

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Gelsinger said virtual machines are a "proven" technology for handling security, networking and management, and can run both legacy apps and new apps. Containers, he said, don't offer the security benefits of isolation that are a core part of virtualization.

That said, Gelsinger said VMware sees containers as "a huge opportunity" to make its hybrid cloud story even more compelling for enterprises. The Java Virtual Machine needed infrastructure to enable app development, and so will containers, he said.

Gelsinger said VMware will "have some exciting things" to share on the container front at its VMworld conference later this month, without elaborating.

Charles Kanavel, CEO of The Kanavel Group, a San Jose, Calif.-based VMware partner, agrees with Gelsinger's stance that container technology is complementary to VMware's virtualization business.

"Because of the way container technology is deployed, it doesn’t detract from VMware's core ESX infrastructure business," Kanavel told CRN. "The container still needs to sit on something, and huge enterprises are not going to jump off a known entity to an open source platform."

Kanavel said container technology could potentially threaten VMware's Horizon business, as well as application virtualization technology from Citrix and Microsoft.

Alan Dumas, president of Accunet Solutions, a Boston-based VMware partner, has a large life sciences business and said Linux containers are prevalent in this space. He doesn't see containers as a threat to VMware today, but believes they could morph into one in the future as cloud adoption grows.

IBM, Google, Rackspace, Red Hat, Microsoft and Amazon are all working on supporting container technology, so VMware also will have to figure out how to incorporate the technology into its own hybrid cloud plans.