Photon Machine essentially couples a slimmed down version of VMware's ESX hypervisor (called a microvisor) and VMware's Photon Linux operating system to create a lightweight container runtime. The Photon Controller serves as a distributed multi-tenant control plane that provides security and authentication (in the form of VMware's Project Lightwave) as well as integration with other container management frameworks and an API.
Unlike vSphere Integrated Containers, which can help administrators quickly and easily integrate containers into an existing vSphere virtualization deployment, Photon Platform is designed for large scale deployments of application containers, running workloads such as microservices, that are specifically developed for the platform. VMware released the Photon Controller as an open source project in November 2015. Company executives have said they intend to keep the Photon Machine portion of the Photon Platform as a proprietary technology and plan to offer it as a commercially-supported product.