VMware Launches Two Open-Source Projects In Play For Cloud Developers' Hearts And Minds

VMware unveiled a pair of open-source projects Monday, pitching them as technologies developers can use to build apps that take full advantage of what the cloud has to offer.

The first, called Project Photon, is a lightweight Linux OS designed for running in containers and optimized for its vSphere server virtualization software and vCloud Air public cloud.

Although other vendors are developing similar technology, Mike Adams, director of vSphere marketing at VMware, said Project Photon lets customers run containers using the same software they use to run virtual machines.

[Related: VMware Says Deploying NSX, AirWatch Together Is Best Way To Secure Data Centers]

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Project Photon supports Docker, Rocket and Garden, a container technology used by Pivotal's Cloud Foundry Platform-as-a-Service, according to Adams. VMware handles all security patches and updates.

VMware is releasing Project Photon under the GPL v2 license and it's now available for download from GitHub.

VMware also unveiled Project Lightwave, an open-source identity and access management technology for Linux containers. It's slated for availability later this year and VMware will make it available under the Apache 2.0 license.

With both open-source projects, VMware is aiming to provide developers with tools for building "cloud native apps." This means apps that are designed to be available all the time, scale up and down based on demand levels, and take advantage of microservices that can be broken up into small chunks.

VMware has had a tough time getting developers to use vCloud Air and would love them to embrace its cloud with the same zeal they've shown for Amazon Web Services.

With Project Photon, VMware is working with a number of ecosystem partners, including CoreOS, which makes a lightweight Linux OS that Google uses in its cloud offerings. Adams said VMware's goal is to get partners to provide additional technologies for building cloud native apps.

"The pieces we're releasing have to do with the infrastructure and supporting the infrastructure around containers. We're not going to do things like orchestration and scheduling, but will look to Pivotal and other partners for that," Adams said.

VMware has also launched a new business unit focused on cloud native apps, led by Kit Colbert, VMware's vice president and chief technology officer of cloud native apps. Its mission is "to make developers first-class citizens of the data center," Adams said.

One VMware partner told CRN he thinks the open-source projects, with their heavy focus on application development, are a sign that VMware is taking the container market seriously.

But some developers question whether there are advantages to running containers in a vSphere environment. The VMware partner told CRN he's taking a wait-and-see attitude on the VMware open-source projects.

"This is similar to the Hadoop conversation, where VMware has been trying to convince everyone of the advantages of running these types of workloads on top of vSphere," said the partner, who didn't want to be named.

VMware in 2012 launched an open-source project called Project Serengeti aimed at deploying Hadoop clusters on vSphere, but the vendor hasn't talked much about it since then, the partner said.