Infrastructure giant VMware is feeling the pinch from application modernisation technology’s biggest threat, Kubernetes.

During last week’s VMworld mega-conference in San Francisco, executives outlined aggressive plans for adopting the new containerisation open-source technology to keep its virtualisation brand, vSphere, relevant in the long run.

Late to the cloud game, VMware is hurrying to the start line through a series of recent cloud-related technology acquisitions. The new cloud management technology will play a key role in helping VMware in its bold plans to inject Kubernetes technology into its hypervisor cash cow, vSphere, the industry’s most prominent virtualisation brand.  

OpenStack vendors

VMware’s efforts are representative of a broader trend among traditional infrastructure providers. These OpenStack vendors are finally realising that, by neglecting to address core customers’ evolving application needs, this has allowed cloud giants, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google, to quickly swoop in and fill gaps in the form of Kubernetes orchestration enhancements, advanced developer tools such as low-code platforms embedded with AI, and multi-cloud management offerings. In this case, VMware is hitting Kubernetes so hard through various initiatives, acquisitions and cloud management options, that its convoluted approach leaves it vulnerable to Red Hat and others which have a much simpler message.

In addition to its recent Heptio and Bitnami acquisitions, VMware just announced a $2.7 billion acquisition of Pivotal, one of the industry’s leading platform-as-a-service (PaaS) technologies, which rivals Red Hat OpenShift and recently embraced Kubernetes technology. Leveraging those acquisitions, VMware aims to abstract the most difficult operational infrastructure complexities associated with moving containerised workloads to the cloud, and Kubernetes will play a large role. VMware announced new Kubernetes and cloud management initiatives during VMworld, branded Tanzu and Project Pacific. 

Despite its Pivotal acquisition and new cloud focus, VMware is playing catch up in the Kubernetes space after only recently committing to the technology, which has clearly become the default way forward for customers. The open-source technology represents a serious long-term threat to VMware’s vSphere install base, as the containerised approach to app development becomes more broadly adopted for its lightweight advantages. Pivotal represents a well-established platforms provider and a major contributor to the Spring developer framework which has over 75 million downloads per month, but IBM and Red Hat are bearing down with OpenShift’s popular and early Kubernetes-based container approach. VMware lacks mind share around containers, due to the lack of Kubernetes support as well as a confusing and changing set of brands.

Cloud management platforms

VMware’s cloud services are positioned to drive interest in its evolving infrastructure and management software solutions: vSphere, vSAN, NSX, and its vRealize Cloud Management Platform. These technologies provide VMware’s private cloud customers with increasingly necessary security and management capabilities as they move towards a DevOps and cloud model. VMware is motivated to continue Kubernetes support as part of its flagship offerings to keep customers in the fold, holding tight to its massive installed base of enterprise followers, which have come to depend on VMware as a foundational infrastructure management provider that helps them keep their businesses running at an enterprise-grade level.

Related article:

Will containerisation kill the cloud along with cloud incompatibility?

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