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Modern Applications and Platforms with VMware Tanzu: Part 1, What is Tanzu?

At VMworld 2019, VMware made several announcements signifying a new strategy centered around modern applications. Their strategy is primarily driven by two VMware offerings: the integration of Kubernetes at the kernel level in vSphere, known as vSphere with Kubernetes, and something called Tanzu.

Since that time, much has been said about VMware’s modern applications strategy, and many products have reached general availability. Yet, there is still confusion about what Tanzu is and is not. Is it a product? Is it a portfolio? Is it a codename?

Tanzu: The Basics

The short answer is that Tanzu is a portfolio of products that enable enterprises to modernize both their applications and the infrastructure they run on. Similar to the way VMware would like vRealize to be synonymous with cloud management and automation, they would like Tanzu to be synonymous with modern applications in the enterprise.

So why is this important? In short, there has been a shift away from traditional monolithic applications to modern applications (sometimes also known as cloud-native applications). We will cover the importance of modern application architecture later in this series, but the reality is that it is becoming the preferred application architecture.

With this reality in mind, VMware has introduced the Tanzu portfolio, which consists of several products that are meant to help both applications and operations teams embrace modern applications. They have encompassed this strategy with a three-word slogan: “Build. Run. Manage.”

(image source: VMware)

Application Modernization vs Infrastructure Modernization

The overall portfolio consists of many products (pictured above), although they could easily be separated into two distinct categories: Application Modernization and Infrastructure Modernization, meant for applications and operations teams respectively.

There is typically a blind handoff between development and operations with applications— developers want to go fast and innovate, and operations wants to provide a stable, predictable infrastructure. With Tanzu, infrastructure contracts and full stack visibility bridge these two perspectives. For application teams, VMware wants to provide the full stack necessary to build modern applications. Likewise, Tanzu is meant to provide operations teams the tools necessary to run modern applications and manage the underlying infrastructure without the need for deep expertise in the underlying technologies. In this case we are talking about everyone’s favorite new technology, Kubernetes. Kubernetes has a reputation for being difficult to stand up, manage, and maintain amongst infrastructure professionals. Tools like Tanzu Kubernetes Grid and Tanzu Mission Control seek to reduce the operational overhead associated with Kubernetes.

How Does It All Fit Together?

VMware has generated much interest with Tanzu, but there are still questions to be answered. For example, with all of these products, what does what and where is the dividing line between development and operations teams? When it comes to running Kubernetes, what is the difference between all the various versions and where you can run them? What version of vSphere is required on premises? Are products like NSX and vSAN required to run Tanzu Kubernetes Grid on vSphere?

These questions are common and will be covered during this three-part blog series, with future posts dedicated to both application modernization and infrastructure modernization with Tanzu.

The key takeaway is that there is great flexibility within the Tanzu portfolio when it comes to where applications are run and how they are managed. With this flexibility naturally comes multiple decision points during the design process of both modern infrastructure and modern applications—which means that there is no right answer when determining how to adopt VMware Tanzu.

Stay tuned for our next article in this series which will cover application modernization with Tanzu.

In the meantime, download our latest study: The State of Modern Applications in the Enterprise to see how organizations are approaching modern applications, the value they’re seeing, and the challenges that stand in the way.

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