The Rise of the VMWare Platform Reliability Engineer

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Borrowed from VMWare

In the last few years as a VMWare person I have watched containers and Kubernetes go from people saying containers cannot replace virtual machines to now Kubernetes being integrated into vSphere.  Years ago, I thought containers were really cool but it lacked all the infrastructure features we relied on to run in enterprise environments.  Yet, all my developers loved leveraging containers.  Why wouldn’t they?  Containers were built for developers. Then something magical happened, Kubernetes hit the scene and became the enterprise “infrastructure” piece that containers was missing allowing for environmental control and scale.  Then at VMworld 2019 VMWare announced Project Pacific taking  vSphere, the platform that hosts the majority of the world’s data center workloads, now integrating Kubernetes distribution in itself.  Thanks to Pacific moving into the kernel brings the same infrastructure benefits and security to containers that you could only get with virtual machines. I could expand even more into the goodies of this integration but that will be another article for another day.

Why Does the Above Matter?

Project Pacific transforms vSphere into a Kubernetes native platform, which in turn means that vSphere inherits the Kubernetes ecosystem.  This also means that the 500,000 + VMWare customers that currently run vSphere don’t need separate stacks for “cloud native applications” IE Kubernetes and for traditional virtualized apps.  With this just being an add on in your licensing it will not be hard for VMWare customers to kick the tires on Kubernetes in their environments.  Having just worked at a global company that invested heavily in Kubernetes and DevOPs in the cloud, I knew that K8 onprem was coming to my company.  The question was raised; Kubernetes onprem, who owns it?

The Rise of the VMWare Platform Reliability Engineer

It was decided that the VMWare team was going to own the infrastructure for Kubernetes.  Makes sense right?  Even though the developers would have direct access to their environments and the VMWare engineers wouldn’t need to be Kube experts per se, this initiative would create a need for a new position/skill set in the company.  This person would be responsible for the availability, performance, monitoring, and incident response, among other things, of the platforms and services that our company runs and owns.  How do we create a job description for this role?  Below you will find some of the skills listed in the required skills section for the job req that was created.

  • Translates requirements and functional specifications into technical requirements that support integrated and sustainable designs for designated infrastructure systems
  • Provides consultation and technical advice on Technology infrastructure planning and engineering for assigned systems; assesses the implications of Technology strategies on infrastructure capabilities
  • Develops or modifies infrastructure solutions within designated computing environments
  • Leads the building of hardware and/or software configurations and prepares system components for installation to the infrastructure
  • Develops, validates, and executes infrastructure tests to identify system errors and ensure solutions meet functional specifications
  • Collaborates with Technology partners to help define and understand target strategies
  • Monitors and manages the stability, availability, and performance of enterprise systems and systems across IT domains (e.g., systems, network, databases, storage, security) by analyzing systems to identify problems, trends, and opportunities for improvement
  • Leads implementation of hardware and software changes into environments by performing impact analyses of system changes
  • Leads the development of system administration standard operating procedures
  • Responsible for all aspects of the onprem Kubernetes service and supporting infrastructure
  • You are experienced in VMware vSphere ESXi & have basic understandings of NSX-T

Final Thoughts:

I don’t think anyone will argue that in the last couple years Kubernetes has been on the rise.  Now that Kubernetes can be offered in combination of your existing onprem VMWare environment it will cause an even larger adoption.  As companies continue their march to cloud native application formats the skill set to support Kubernetes on VMWare will become more in-demand.  With innovation comes opportunity so I hope my fellow VMWare people don’t see this as a threat but as an opportunity to expand your horizons.  Take it from someone who started out as a storage engineer who became a systems admin, and finally a solution architect these technologies can do wonders for your companies and career.  I encourage anyone interested in learning more about Kubernetes and K8 on VMWare to look at the links below.

Tools to Help Get Started with Kubernetes

Educational Tools:

Kube Academy to get your Kubernetes 101 knowledge

Free E-Book – Kubernetes Up and Running

Overview of Kubernetes Components:

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