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VMware Introduces Project Bonneville


June 22, 2015

It is hard to believe that it has only been about two years since Docker made its appearance on the scene. However, the current sold out Dockercon 2015 event in San Francisco attests to just how fast and how important the open-source project— that automates the deployment of applications inside software containers, by providing an additional layer of abstraction and automation of operating-system-level virtualization on Linux—has become along with containerization in general. Indeed, it is arguable whether there is a hotter topic in all of ICT than containerization, as it has captured a lot more than just the imagination of developers. Ops, DevOps and Sysadmins are already using containers to enhance the agility of their operations and speed new applications to end users, and the Docker ecosystem is growing by leaps and bounds.  

For those unfamiliar with containers, a short primer seems in order.  Leveraging the resource isolation features of the Linux kernel, independent "containers" can run within a single Linux instance. This is significant since it means IT can avoid the overhead of starting and maintaining virtual machines. The beauty is that ccontainers as infrastructure have been shown to speed things up in the critical life cycle of app deployment, integration, testing and provisioning.  They provide what could be viewed as the holy grail of apps, e.g., package once and run anywhere.  Plus, by breaking monolithic applications into services, they expedite the cost and speed of the innovation process overall.  

To say the least, containers certainly caught the attention of the virtual machine (VM) vendors, particularly dominant player VMware.  Indeed, while many thought that containers and VMs are competitive, VMware decided that not only can they coexist, but that they can provide even more value-added when working together. This point was just made in front of Dockercon 2015 in a blog by Ben Corrie, the Principal Investigator on Project Bonneville, a native container solution for VMware's hypervisor, in an appropriately titled posting “Introducing Project Bonneville”. 

As Corrie notes, “Last year at VMworld, we stressed the latter - that containers and VMs work better together. At that time, we were already two months into our work on Project Bonneville, hoping to deliver on that message in a very literal sense. Our goal was to provision containers directly to virtual infrastructure as first-class citizens and to do it efficiently, quickly and transparently.”

Image via Shutterstock

Debunking industry skepticism Corrie and his team decided it was time to share a technology preview with the world and blog publically about the progress Project Bonneville has made in proving the skeptics wrong. 

Since the blog is a great read, a few key points are worth a nod here. As Corrie explains: “…arguably a VM fits the abstract description of a container perfectly, and a hypervisor or some part thereof is an equally suitable container host. There's compelling advantages to hardware virtualization in this brave, new, containerized world, and with Bonneville, we can deliver them with minimal additional cost.” He adds:

“Bonneville is a Docker daemon with custom VMware graph, execution and network drivers that delivers a fully-compatible API to vanilla Docker clients. The pure approach Bonneville takes is that the container is a VM, and the VM is a container. There is no distinction, no encapsulation, and no in-guest virtualization. All of the necessary container infrastructure is outside of the VM in the container host. The container is an x86 hardware virtualized VM – nothing more, nothing less.”

After addressing the issue of efficiency, a few other benefits of Bonneville’s hardware-virtualized approach are cited. These include:

  • Security and isolation. If you try to break out of a Bonneville VM, the only thing you’re likely to find is the BIOS.
  • Freedom from Linux distribution management. Not sure what Linux distro to use as a container host? Worried about maintenance, patching, upgrades, sizing, multi-tenancy or kernel version? With Bonneville, there are no such worries. Your containers live in virtual spaces that are dynamic, secure and already have well-trodden upgrade paths. If you really want a Linux container host, Bonneville can provision a Linux container host as a container.
  • Portability. Provided you stick with Linux, any container created in Bonneville can be committed and run on any vanilla Docker host.

The message to the Dockercon 2015 crowd and container enthusiasts in general was loud and clear:  “In summary, Bonneville is the container ecosystem you love, on the hypervisor you trust.”

Transforming the network infrastructure of data centers is in many ways about the virtualization of “E”verything and as containerization and the move by the likes of VMware to make VM hypervisor friend rather than foe illustrates, with the common goal of making things simpler, faster, secure and more cost-effective, cooperation on making open source really open for business is something that is in everyone’s best interest. 




Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

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