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HPE Plunges Into Red Hot Kubernetes Market

HPE Container Platform 5.0 is the first version of that product built on the open source technology that’s become a de facto infrastructure standard. HPE recommends bare-metal deployment of its Kubernetes service when running on-premises, saying it’s solved noisy neighbor and security concerns that typically force enterprises to pay for virtualization overhead

Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s strategy to become a prominent player in the container market is ready for primetime, as the tech giant on Monday made generally available its first comprehensive, hybrid cloud-ready Kubernetes service.

With the wide release of HPE Container Platform 5.0, the first version of that product built with open source Kubernetes as its backbone, HPE believes it can challenge the field in one of the industry’s most-important infrastructure segments with a platform that aims to excel in enterprise-grade functionality, Tom Phelan, a fellow in HPE’s storage and big data organization, told CRN.

The new HPE Kubernetes service represents the culmination of two years of work building upon technology obtained from two acquisitions: BlueData and MapR, said Phelan, who was one of BlueData’s founders.

[Related: CEO Antonio Neri On Why HPE ‘Outperformed’ Dell, Cisco]

While HPE Container Platform 5.0 has similarities to some other products on the market, such as Red Hat OpenShift and Rancher Labs Kubernetes, Phelan told CRN the product differentiates itself in notable ways.

It’s an opinionated solution that manages deployment in on-premises, public cloud or edge compute environments of monolithic legacy apps as well as cloud-native ones built as micro-services, he said. HPE focused on enterprise-grade deployment, management and security, as well as hybrid cloud readiness.

The platform integrates with the Calico container network interface, MapR’s container storage interface, HPE Nimble Storage, and authentication and access control systems. It also offers a curated application library of roughly 30 stacks, including Cloudera Hadoop, TensorFlow, Cassandra, MongoDB, and Jupiter notebooks.

Most significantly, HPE tackled two issues that had before given credence to VMware’s suggestions that containers run inside virtual machines: the noisy neighbor problem in which different containerized apps compete for a host machine’s resources, and concerns around container security.

VMware uses noisy neighbors and security to promote its upcoming Project Pacific and Tanzu Kubernetes solutions, Phelan said.

But HPE recommends customers deploy its Kubernetes platform on bare metal to save on licensing costs and resource overhead, he said.

“We think we have addressed both issues,” Phelan told CRN, so customers don’t need to “pay the overhead inside hypervisor virtualization.”

Version 5.0 was first introduced as part of a limited release at the KubeCon conference last November.

Earlier versions of HPE Container Platform used a proprietary container orchestrator created by BlueData. But HPE had been following Kubernetes development and market penetration closely, and by 2018 determined the technology was worthy of the enterprise.

The company watched as two rival orchestrators, Mesos and Docker Swarm, came and went, Phelan said, “but they didn’t have legs.”

It was particularly advances in the Kubernetes API that convinced HPE to embrace the technology, as that interface truly enabled customers to deploy their Kubernetes infrastructure anywhere they wanted.

While the platform’s controller is still proprietary, all code that runs applications is now open source, Phelan said.

HPE is now building out a suite of scanning and monitoring software, “so we can track when a container is malicious and we can isolate that container and take remediation action,” Phelan said.

While HPE is known for its hardware, the container platform is infrastructure agnostic—HPE delivers pre-integrated bundles and reference architectures that can be licensed to run on any competitor’s hardware.

“That being said, we offer additional value when running on top of the HPE gear,” he said, as well as support through HPE Pointnext services.

HPE also plans at some point to introduce the container platform in a consumption model based on its GreenLake Systems.

HPE aims to help its customers “as they look to containerize more of their application estate,” Phelan told CRN. That includes building new cloud-native apps or containerizing their legacy ones to enable new use cases like artificial intelligence and machine learning, analytics, and DevOps functionality.

The channel for HPE Container Platform is still small, but the company is working with a core set of partners as it looks to train new ones and ramp its go-to-market efforts.

Some of those initial channel partners are new to working with HPE, but they have deep container expertise; others have longstanding relationships with the company, but they are just beginning to build container practices.

“We think there’s great opportunity for channel partners to ramp expertise in this area, and we’ll be bringing more channel partners in over time,” Phelan said.

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