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VMware Tanzu Community Edition Is A Love Letter To The Open Source Community 

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At KubeCon North America 2021, VMware announced the release of a free community edition of VMware Tanzu called VMware Tanzu Community Edition. Grant Shipley, Senior Director, Kubernetes at VMware, calls it a ‘Love letter to the open source community’.

When asked about new use cases like Edge, Shipley said that it’s also “meant for people to come up with new ideas on how to use it. It can be run in a single-node configuration, which could be a small edge deployment, such as a vending machine, or it could run the largest enterprise companies in the world. There’s no difference between Tanzu Community Edition and our highest paid Tanzu offering.”

Topics we covered in this interview:

  • What exactly is VMware Tanzu and what is VMware Tanzu Community Edition?
  • What is the idea behind creating the community edition of Tanzu? Is it to give potential customers a taste of the product so they can move to the commercial version or is it to serve the open source community?
  • What are the core components of VMware Tanzu Community Edition? And what is the release cadence?
  • How is the community edition tied to the commercial edition? Which one is the upstream project?
  • How easy is it to migrate from the community edition to the commercial editions and does VMware offer help with such migration?
  • Kubernetes use cases are growing. Is the community edition capable of being used in new use cases or is it meant for certain use cases?
  • As with any non-commercial version of a product, users are on their own for troubleshooting and support, what plans does VMware have to help such users?
  • What role will VMware play in any potential user community that will form around the Tanzu Community Edition?
  • What’s the best way to try out the Community Edition of Tanzu?
  • A discussion on the Carvel packaging system – is it meant for the community to create packages that they may need or is there a VMware-controlled marketplace?

About our guest: Grant Shipley is a Sr. Director at VMware focused on containers and Kubernetes. Prior to joining VMware, Grant worked as a Sr. Director on the OpenShift platform at Red Hat. He is the author of several books including “OpenShift for Developers” and “Learning OpenShift”.

Guest: Grant Shipley (LinkedIn, Twitter)
Company: VMware (Twitter)


Swapnil Bhartiya: Hi, this is your host Swapnil Bhartiya, and welcome to Let’s Talk about Kubernetes. This is a special, a series of Let’s Stop for KubeCon. And my next guest is Grant Shipley, Senior Director of Kubernetes at VMware. Grant, it’s great to have you on the show.

Grant Shipley: Yeah, it’s great to be here. Thanks for inviting me on.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Today we are going to talk about the Tanzu Community Edition. So I want to just understand from you, what exactly is the VMware Tanzu Community Edition? We will talk about Tanzu also, but if you want, you can start with Tanzu and then you can talk about the Community Edition of Tanzu.

Grant Shipley: Okay. Yeah. So great. So Tanzu Community Edition is kind of, you can think of it as our love letter to the open source community, right? VMware is big into open source, especially around the Kubernetes ecosystem, and a lot of the products that we actually create and ship and sell to customers is based on whether that’d be upstream open source projects, or upstream projects that VMware has initiated, such as Harbor, kpack, other things like that.

In the product editions like kpack, for example, we call Tanzu Build Service. And so what we’ve done and we’re super excited about it, and me especially, is we are taking the upstream equivalents of those product versions and letting anyone download them inside the open source project to really ease the on-ramp to getting started with Kubernetes.

Swapnil Bhartiya: I mean, if you look at the open source… This is a very common pattern we have seen, there is Enterprise Edition where customers… people pay to get support, additional features. And then there is a Community Edition where people can play with. But if you look at this Tanzu Community Edition, what is the purpose of this? Or is it more or less about getting people started with Tanzu, without having to worry about any money involved. Or it’s more or less just to give them a taste of Tanzu and then see them convert into users or paying customers. So talk about the goal of this Community Edition.

Grant Shipley: Yeah. The goal of Tanzu Community Edition is definitely not to lead people down into a sales funnel. That is not the intention, that’s not the goal. What we have seen over the past couple of years is we’ve been building our core Tanzu products is that in order to be successful with Kubernetes, you need a lot of additional things on top of just installing the base Kubernetes, things like REST controllers, things like build services, things like registries.

And we do believe that Kubernetes is the future platform, not just for operations, but for developers. And installing all of those additional components can get a little unwieldy for developers. And so we wanted to take the experience and the knowledge we’ve gained over the last couple of years and provide a open source distribution that solves a lot of those problems for people to get started with Kubernetes. And so part of Tanzu Community Edition that I’m most excited about is actually the Carvel packaging system.

And so if you or your listeners are familiar with Linux, you know that it’s pretty easy to install things on Linux, same with the MacOS ecosystem. Now with Homebrew and with Linux, you have apt-get or DNF yum. And so Carvel, you can think of in those terms, you can just say, tanzu install package certificate registry, and it actually does all of the hard work behind the covers of setting up all the SSL things that a developer would need, so they don’t have to dive into to those details.

And so down the road, if someone is successful, which we hope they will be, with Tanzu Community Edition and they do start deploying it in their enterprise or at their employer’s location, it is a very easy switchover to the paid offerings. I’m not going to say, it’s not, because it is. Yeah, it is very easy to switchover. So there is some opportunity for VMware in that regard, but it is not the main intention at all.

Swapnil Bhartiya: As you explained, that it’s more or less, your love letter to the community, if I can… And you also alluded to something, but I just want to go a bit deeper into the tech details is that, what are the components which are common between VMware Tanzu and the Community Edition? And how do you also maintain the Cadence? Because Kubernetes, it’s released on its own pace, and then you have to keep Tanzu on its pace, so which one is upstream for what?

Grant Shipley: Yeah. So we will always use the upstream Kubernetes, pure Kubernetes. That’s design tenet number one, whether that’s in our open source Tanzu Community Edition or in our paid editions. And the big reason for that is we also are a participant in that upstream community, but we also want to take advantage of what the community is creating. And so the main design tenet was to be 100% upstream Kubernetes.

The most frustrating thing an operator or a developer can go through, and I’ve been through this many times, is googling how to do something in Kubernetes. You find an answer, take it to your distribution, and that doesn’t work because of subtle differences between the two. And so being pure Kubernetes is very important to us.

But to answer your question, I think, are we a little bit delayed? Yes, because we take the base Kubernetes and then we test and validate. We’re not far behind, but we do do a lot of testing and validation of the additional packages. Make sure Carvel… Excuse me. Works correctly, cert-manager works correctly, Harbor is still working, Build Service is still working, all of these additional packages that are included inside of Tanzu Community Edition.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Excellent. And the second question that I asked was, more or less, if you look at the Tanzu, the Peer or Enterprise Edition and the Community Edition, is there this Tanzu is upstream for this? In other words, we have seen Fedora or Tumbleweed, so that’s also one… Also, where does the development happen? Does it happen internally at VMware, and then you release off for Tanzu and then you also split it as a Developer Community Edition, or you use the Community Edition to do all the testing, all the new features, and then they trickle down or Tanzu becomes a downstream for that. That’s what I was trying to understand.

Grant Shipley: Oh, okay. Yeah. So the Fedora, CentOS, RedHat model, for sure. So we do all of our development in the upstream projects. And so almost every single component of either the paid offering or the Community Edition, a 100% in the Community Edition case, is the upstream project.

So we do all of our work around Tanzu Build Service in the kpack upstream project, and then we take that and we include it in the editions. And so they are always very, very close to each other. I wouldn’t say one’s further ahead than the other at this point.

Swapnil Bhartiya: The reason I wanted to ask that question was, as you earlier mentioned that, if you are using the Community Edition, you can very easily move to the paid version if you want to move into production. So how easy is that process or does VMware… your teams help people migrate their workload, it’s just as easy as just clicking on a button or running some commands?

Grant Shipley: Yeah. I know in our industry, we like to say things are always single-click, very easy to do. In reality, nothing is that way. And so I’m not going to say, it’s magic because it’s not, right? But we do certainly help people to transition going from Tanzu Community Edition to one of our paid offerings. Should be minimal in effort, it’s not no effort, nothing is no effort. But it is a lot easier than going from base Kubernetes to EKS or to some other distribution of Kubernetes. It should be pretty seamless, but I can’t promise there’s no effort there.

Swapnil Bhartiya: One more thing that I want to ask you is, and this could be out of the scope of the discussion, is that if you look at the use cases for Kubernetes these days, it’s almost everywhere. As there used to be a joke about, Hey, Linux is powering my toaster, Kubernetes will be doing same. So if you look at some of the use cases, especially in the edge space, how prepared is the Community Edition to handle those use cases or it’s just meant specifically for certain use cases?

Grant Shipley: It’s meant for both, but it’s also meant for people to come up with new ideas on how to use it. So with Tanzu Community Edition, you can run it in a single-node configuration, which could be a small edge deployment, maybe in a vending machine somewhere, if you wanted to, or it could run the largest enterprise companies in the world. There’s no difference between Tanzu Community Edition and our highest paid Tanzu offering as far as features, functionality goes and where you could run it and where you can’t run it.

We could get into a whole another discussion on whether or not Kubernetes is suitable for a lot of these edge cases like in the vehicles, will we ever see containers powering autonomous vehicles or something? I don’t know. But Tanzu Community Edition and the Tanzu products are well-suited. And we do test against both the edge use cases, as well as large enterprise [inaudible 00:09:44].

Swapnil Bhartiya: One challenge with the community edition is that you are on your own, you have a lot of questions, you are looking for troubleshooting. So as part of the community edition, do you only offer the code or is there also a community where people can go and ask questions or get their issues resolved within the community? Or they have to go and check online on their own?

Grant Shipley: Yeah. So I would hope that people don’t feel like they’re on their own, that’s the point of community. As soon as you release a new open source project, the community is small, right? It’s generally made up of the people who worked on the project. And so that’s kind of the state we’re in now. We have seen a lot of adoption and downloads of Tanzu Community Edition in the last couple of weeks, but that community is still growing.

Now, how does a company and a project sponsored by VMware help with that effort? Yeah, certainly we’ll get in and start seeding discussions and helping out in the community, making sure people are successful. The last thing we want is for people to download Tanzu Community Edition, not be able to find the answers that they need online. But you’re a 100% right, it is a community support model. You will not be able to call Tanzu or VMware to talk to someone on the phone, unless you do have a paid subscription to one of our products.

Swapnil Bhartiya: This may be a kind of awkward question, but because I don’t believe that you can manage a community, or you can curate a community, you can help a community. But is it also in your kind of radar somewhere to build a platform, as we have seen a lot of forums are there. In modern times there are different platforms altogether. Slack is there. Other things. So how do you plan to also facilitate communities, so that if they do have issues they can… or are you going to leave it entirely up to the community, that they can come up with the solutions through either build forums or whatever they want?

Grant Shipley: No, we will initially help out and be that community initially, right? And point people to whether it be Reddit or the official Tanzu Community Edition Slack channel on the Kubernetes Slack. And our goal is to… As people have questions, have helped them with the answer to that question in the hopes that when someone else has the question, they can then become part of that community and help other people out.

It’s not going to happen overnight. Something like this takes a very long time, a year or multiple years to build a true community around something, but it doesn’t happen magically. We will definitely have to start building the initial inroads into that. And then once the community is more involved, then it will be the community’s decision. Maybe they don’t want to use the Kubernetes Slack, maybe they want to use Stack Overflow or some other medium as the official community support channel. That’ll be up to the community at that point.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Let’s go back to some basics is that, if there is somebody who wants to try Tanzu Community Edition, how they get started? And also what kind of people are you targeting that, Hey, this is ideal for these kinds of people.

Grant Shipley: Yeah. So to get started with Tanzu Community Edition, you just go to our website or you can go directly to GitHub and you can download the Tanzu CLI, which you can then install Tanzu Community Edition from, it only takes a few minutes. You can do it on the command line, or you can use the UI, it’s a pretty nice experience.

We are targeting both, infrastructure and developer audiences with this open source project. So predominantly anyone who wants to run workloads or even just learn about Kubernetes. One of the efforts that we released alongside of Tanzu Community Edition is learn.tanzu.io, which is a interactive learning portal that VMware has built just to teach people how to use Kubernetes. We also have Kubernetes by Example.

So our goal is, for this edition, is both the experienced practitioners of Kubernetes looking for a distribution that they can seamlessly move to a enterprise supported product if they need to, as well as individuals who just want to learn and start using Kubernetes.

Swapnil Bhartiya: I just quickly want to talk about Carvel packaging system. I mean, this is a totally different word to the Kubernetes or Cloud Native word, but how do you get packages in there? People submit it? The package in there, can they… If you look at… Compare with app, image and everything else where the project maintainers they go and they can create their own app images. So how does things work in Carvel system? Are you managing the packages or anybody can contribute packages there?

Grant Shipley: So, that’s one of the things I like most about Carvel is, again, we’ve learned a lot of things from Linux and how well packaging systems works on Linux. So we have package repositories, right? And so with Tanzu Community Edition, you can subscribe to the Tanzu Package Repository, which includes things like the cert-manager and DNS extensions. But users can also create and publish their own packages in their own repositories and then subscribe to those from their Tanzu Community Edition.

And so one of the big things you’ll see coming from us over the next little bit is VMware acquired Bitnami about a year and a half ago, two years ago, who are world renowned for their packaging efforts, both for Kubernetes with Helm charts, as well as for virtual machines. So starting to create more and more packages based around the Carvel system. But yes, our goal and intention is for anyone to be able to quickly and easily create a Kubernetes package that can be installed with Carvel tools setup.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Grant, thank you so much for taking time out today and talk about the Tanzu Community Edition, and also we went a bit deeper into the community aspect and open source aspect of it. So thanks for your insights. And I look forward to our next conversation. Thank you.

Grant Shipley: Yeah, it was awesome. Thank you.

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