Next-Gen Cloud-Native Platform: VMware Photon + Pivotal Cloud Foundry

August 31, 2015 Karun Bakshi


sfeatured-pcf-photon-ALTToday, Pivotal and VMware are announcing our intent to deliver Pivotal Cloud Foundry with the VMware Photon Platform as an integrated solution for Cloud-Native Applications—an IaaS built for Cloud-Native workloads embedded with Pivotal Cloud Foundry. This is an exciting moment for us—it signals an important milestone in the evolution of cloud technology. The joint solution will represent a complete, turn-key Cloud-Native platform for our customers. With this solution, companies will fundamentally transform how they deliver and run custom enterprise software for the next decade.

What Is The VMware Photon Platform?

Photon Platform, comprised of the Photon Machine and Photon Controller, is a complete rethink of infrastructure capabilities and core design goals—now focused on speed, scale and programmability. The Photon Machine is comprised of the ESX Microvisor, a stripped down version of the market-proven VMware ESXi technology, and Photon OS, a lightweight, Linux operating system (tuned for VMware environments). Both components are focused on simply one goal—fast startup and provisioning of compute infrastructure at scale. Nothing more, nothing less.

This design goal is ideal for Cloud-Native workloads, where the inherent workload elasticity and multi-tenancy creates significant churn in the underlying infrastructure, requiring it to be as fast, efficient and as lightweight as possible. As such, the components are free of superfluous features designed to address advanced and complex uses cases (e.g. live migration) and can be optimized to provision containers fast to support Cloud-Native application workloads. The Photon Controller provides the APIs that Pivotal Cloud Foundry consumes to provision infrastructure rapidly and at web scale. Collectively, these capabilities provide what Cloud-Native apps require from the infrastructure layer—compute infrastructure, fast.

Why Is The VMware Photon Platform Important?

From its earliest days, cloud computing has held the allure of cost savings unlocked by on-demand access and packing efficiencies, powered by programmable APIs. Yet, in the rush to realize these cost efficiencies, few fully understood the transient nature of elastic resources and accepted its implications—underlying infrastructure-level resources can become unavailable, yet the applications need to remain available. Those who understood this key aspect chose to develop the means of coping with it by building reliable abstractions on top of unreliable, underlying infrastructure. Others, however, delegated many of these tasks to the infrastructure to solve. This delegation results in a conflation of concerns—inclusion of more features and capabilities at the infrastructure layer slowed down provisioning and limited scalability. As a result, the performance in the latter case falls short of expectations when its infrastructure is used in Cloud-Native contexts.

And that is what makes the announcement about Photon Platform so exciting. It enables us to separate concerns and develop a layered solution for Cloud-Native applications comprised of the Cloud-Native Infrastructure layer (Photon Platform) that is simplified to focus on fully automated, rapid provisioning of compute capacity via highly programmable APIs, and the Cloud-Native Runtime layer (Pivotal Cloud Foundry) that consumes and organizes this raw infrastructure into a highly structured interface ready to run your applications.

Being Cloud-Native is more than about containerized workloads. It is an approach to developing applications in the cloud era such that they can be delivered quickly and scalably, with low risk. As such, there are implications beyond the underlying infrastructure that affect how we design, operate, and manage our applications. A truly complete, turnkey Cloud-Native platform must not only provide support for containerized workloads, but it must also support modern software design and development paradigms (e.g. microservices, dev/prod parity, etc.), production concerns (e.g., scalability, availability) and process workflows (e.g., canary deployments) required to operate applications successfully. These abstractions are very difficult to deliver by raw infrastructure alone. Separating these constructs from the infrastructure and making them the responsibility of the Cloud-Native runtime platform enables us to develop a highly performant, yet robust and comprehensive Cloud-Native solution that meets the needs of the application as well as the developers and IT operators.

Looking Ahead—Photon and Cloud Foundry

The joint Photon Platform and Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF) solution is noteworthy in its comprehensiveness. It provides all the components needed to deliver cloud-native applications:

  • Microvisor (ESX Photon Machine)
  • Infrastructure management and control (Photon Platform)
  • Operating system, patches and support (Photon OS)
  • Cloud-native orchestration with push button platform scaling (PCF Operations manager)
  • Cloud-native high availability container runtime (PCF Elastic runtime)
  • Cloud-native data services (MySQL, Redis, Cassandra, Kafka, RMQ, and GemFire on PCF)
  • Polyglot application runtime buildpacks and middleware (PCF Buildpacks)
  • Enterprise microservices framework (Spring Boot, Netflix OSS)

Building a true, turnkey Cloud-Native platform is a complex undertaking. While it can be developed in-house, it entails a significant and on-going investment. Given the choice, few enterprises would (or even should) choose to build their own platform. Instead, they choose to prioritize an investment in capabilities that drive competitive differentiation and innovation, unlocking greater value in their businesses.

Looking ahead, we hope to conduct targeted customer trials later this year, with details on pricing and packaging coming soon thereafter. General availability is targeted for first half of 2016. Exciting times lie ahead. We have only just begun to scratch the surface of what is possible in the Cloud-Native world!

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About the Author

Karun Bakshi

Karun Bakshi drives Pivotal Cloud Foundry® product marketing. He has held roles spanning engineering, product management, product/platform marketing and business development at Lockheed Martin, Oracle and Microsoft.

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