VMware Project Bonneville

Contributor(s): Nick Martin

VMware Project Bonneville is the  preview name for a set of daemons and drivers that allows for the rapid creation of containers as virtual machines (VMs) from within VMware's vSphere.

Project Bonneville relies on a Docker API to enable vSphere to create Docker containers hosted as VMs. However, VMware has said it plans to expand support to other container platforms, including Google's Kubernetes.

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VMware Project Bonneville relies heavily on two other VMware technologies: Project Photon (a lightweight Linux operating system) and VMware's Instant Clone feature (previously known as Project Fargo). Essentially, Project Bonneville uses the vSphere Instant Clone feature to clone a container host VM that is running the Project Photon operating system (OS).

An administrator starts with one VM running the Project Photon operating system. This VM is used as a template for future Bonneville VMs. When an administrator creates a new Bonneville VM, the vSphere Instant Clone feature copies the original VM. This new VM serves as the host for a new Docker container. Each VM hosts one container instance and can be deleted when the container is no longer needed.

Running a container inside a VM solves many of the challenges with container security and management. Using this model, administrators can manage the container host VM using vSphere, just as they can manage other VMs. One of the chief security concerns with containers is that every container shares the same underlying kernel. If the security of one container is compromised, all containers on the host would be at risk. Hosting a container within a VM means the container would have the same level of security and isolation as the VM.

This was last updated in August 2015

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Will you use VMware's Project Bonneville to deploy containers?
This isn't quite right, but I can understand the cause of the confusion. We don't provision containers IN VMs, we provision them AS VMs. It's an important distinction. The VMs Bonneville clones are not container hosts (which is where the confusion around Photon comes in) - this would suggest that inside each container VM is Photon + Docker + layered filesystem + LXC etc. That would be inefficient, unnecessary and would limit the implementation to just Linux.
Inside each containerVM is just the container filesystem, the container process and a "tether" that provides command and control back to the Docker daemon. These VMs look and smell and respond like containers to the Docker daemon; yet they look and smell and respond like VMs to vSphere. All of the container infrastructure (layered filesystem, networking etc) is provided by the hypervisor, not by Linux. This means that we can provide Docker support to more operating systems than just Linux Eg. Our MS-DOS port doesn't need Photon at all. That said, confusingly, it is quite feasible to provision full Photon hosts as containers in Bonneville - a nested Docker approach - it's just not the norm.

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