Understanding the Tanzu portfolio (and the new names for VMware modern app products)

The new Tanzu portfolio has a plethora of new (and not so new) Kubernetes products that we are all getting used to. There are also some new names that we are using for existing VMware products. I decided to dedicate some time to figuring it all, and documenting it here for future posterity as I know others are also finding the new branding a challenge. Note that I’m not including the new suite of products that were added to the Tanzu portfolio when VMware acquired Pivotal. This post is focusing purely on the Kubernetes related products.

Enterprise PKS is now VMware Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Integrated (TKGI) Edition

I am going to start with a product that I have been working on for some time, Enterprise PKS (formerly known as the Pivotal Container Service). Its new name in the Tanzu portfolio is VMware Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Integrated Edition. The most recent release is version 1.7, and while you may still see it referred to as Enterprise PKS in the official docs, such as the v1.7 Release Notes, going forward you will see the new name (TKGI) used more and more, such as in this blog post announcement. One additional interesting note about this new 1.7 version is that Enterprise PKS aka TKGI now supports the vSphere CSI driver and integrates with Cloud Native Storage (CNS). Excellent news.

Essential PKS is now … a few different things

Essential PKS is a little bit harder to explain. The original Essential PKS arrived from a rebranding of the Heptio Kubernetes Service (HKS) that came with the VMware acquisition of Heptio at the end of 2018. So what’s happening to this product under Tanzu?

1. Essential PKS is still Essential PKS

VMware already has a lot of customers invested in Essential PKS. [Update] If you are an existing Essential PKS customer, you can still download Essential PKS today. In fact, version 1.17 released earlier last month. The main point of Essential PKS is that it is a production-grade deployment of Kubernetes, supported 24×7 by VMware Production Support. However it should be noted that customers are responsible for installing all of the different parts of this product manually – there is no automation provided. Since we have many customers using this product,Β  we continue to support the Essential PKS product in this form. [Update] However, Essential PKS is not available for purchase by new customers.

2. VMware Tanzu Kubernetes Grid standalone is the next evolution of Essential PKS

Going forward, production-grade deployments of Kubernetes, supported 24×7 by VMware Production Support, will become Tanzu Kubernetes Grid standalone. This is the next evolution of Essential PKS, even though Essential PKS as we currently know it continues to exist as a product. The main difference between TKG standalone and Essential PKS is that TKG standalone is a fully VMware engineered product that includes an automated deployment mechanism to take care of the installation task. You can read more here about TKG 1.0. This posts talks about TKG standalone concepts, installation steps, and so on. You can also download TKG 1.0 today.

Some other VMware Tanzu Kubernetes Grid implementations

Now we have seen that TKG standalone is the next iteration of Kubernetes deployments from VMware, but it doesn’t stop there. There are some other TKG implementations that also appear in the Tanzu portfolio.

1. VMware Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Plus

We’ve just talked about VMware Tanzu Kubernetes Grid standalone but it is important to note that VMware is offering our customers two different flavors of TKG. Along with Tanzu Kubernetes Grid standalone there is also VMware Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Plus. In essence, the major difference between the two flavors is that TKG Plus has a wider support matrix. The differences are detailed in VMware knowledge base article 78173. From this article, you can see that TKG Plus includes the Harbor Registry for storing container images, Sonobuoy for conformance checking, Velero for backups/migrations and a bunch of other open source products and features.

2. VMware Tanzu Kubernetes Grid (as a Service) in Tanzu Mission Control

VMware Tanzu Mission Control (TMC) is a centralized management platform for consistently operating and securing your Kubernetes infrastructure and modern applications across multiple teams and clouds. Whilst TMC gives you visibility into your K8s clusters, TMC also has the ability to provision TKG clusters. With TMC, you are not interfacing with TKG directly, but instead you are simply using TMC to request the provisioning of a TKG cluster, on demand. Thus the introduction of the term, as a Service, where TKG is abstracted from the user interaction. This differentiates TKG clusters deployed from TMC, from TKG Plus with its extended support matrix, and TKG standalone clusters.

3. VMware Tanzu Kubernetes Grid with vSphere 7

We have one more TKG instantiation to discuss before we finish, and this is related to the concept of “guest” clusters that can be deployed in vSphere with Kubernetes, formerly known as Project Pacific. The documentation refers to this as Tanzu Kubernetes Grid with vSphere 7 to differentiate it from TKG standalone, TKG Plus and TKG (as a Service). These are basically the “guest clusters” that can be deployed in vSphere with Kubernetes. I’ve already blogged about this functionality (there is a short video too) but suffice to say that this flavor of TKG is once again similar to previously mentioned flavors. But there are subtle differences. The deployment mechanism is different, since there is a different control plane (vSphere with Kubernetes Supervisor Cluster), so we simply pass it a cluster manifest (YAML) file to deploy the TKG cluster. VI-Admins also need to ensure that the desired OS image for the cluster nodes are in the appropriate vSphere content library. Another difference is that these “guest” clusters in vSphere with Kubernetes do not include the products and features that one would find in TKG Plus. Tanzu Kubernetes Grid with vSphere 7 is currently available via VMware Cloud Foundation 4.0.

[Update] After publishing the original article, I noticed that the official documentation around Tanzu Kubernetes Grid with vSphere 7 refers to the deployment mechanism for TKG clusters in vSphere with Kubernetes as the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Service, allowing TKG clusters to be deployed in a declarative manner. Hopefully this doesn’t cause confusion with the TMC method of “as a Service” referenced previously. You can read more about the TKG Service in TKG with vSphere 7 here.


I hoped that helped clear up some confusion you might have had about what’s happening in the Tanzu space. Like I said, I didn’t want to get into the whole former Pivotal portfolio, but you can find that here. This was really just to inform you about Kubernetes and some of the name changes, especially the PKS ones. And while PKS Essentials still exists, our next step in Kubernetes deployment offering is Tanzu Kubernetes Grid (TKG). Last but not least, I hope you now appreciate some of the different flavors of TKG, such as TKG standalone, TKG Plus, TKG (as a Service) with Tanzu Mission Control, and TKG with vSphere 7 (vSphere with Kubernetes).

A final word of thanks to both Keith Lee and Frank Denneman on helping me to put this post together, and various others who provided some updates after the publication.

Want to learn more about TKG? Here is a great podcast from Kendrick Coleman.

Interesting in joining the Tanzu team at VMware? We’re hiring! Click here and search JoinTeamTanzu.

16 Replies to “Understanding the Tanzu portfolio (and the new names for VMware modern app products)”

  1. Indeed a good post! Never a good thing if you need such a writeup to explain your product portfolio… can you elaborate on how this will evolve and map it to the use case that is most suiting the different offerings?

    1. This would have to come from someone in that Business Unit @ VMware Stijn. Unfortunately, that’s not me. If you are interested, ask your local VMware rep to request a roadmap session from the ‘Tanzu’ BU. They should be able to give you some product direction info, and some of the use cases most suited to the offerings.

    2. Hey Stijn hows it going man, long time no talk πŸ™‚ I definitely understand where you are coming from here. Just like vsphere or nsx, if you look at different versions over time, there are many differences, but at a higher level, you could just say vsphere is vsphere and nsx is nsx. The same is true of TKG, at a higher level, TKG is just TKG, an engineered solution that provides lifecycle management and automation for kubernetes clusters, including the specific kubernetes distribution that gets deployed on the kubernetes clusters. You will be able to consume TKG as a managed service, its still the same TKG, but as with the case with any of our products available as a service, some of the implementation details are different when you consume it as a service. And just like vsphere 7 has many differences from vsphere 6.x, TKG on vsphere 7 has differences when it is deployed on vsphere 7 where it can take advantage of the new optimizations from project pacific. If you want to run TKG on vSphere 6.7, it is installed in standard virtual machines, and accordingly can also be installed on other cloud provider IaaS. Likewise vSphere on-premise also has implementation differences from vsphere when consumed as a service via vmware cloud on AWS, these different flavors of TKG reflect those exact differences. So like vsphere is a singular product, TKG is also a singular product, but like vsphere, there are some differences depending on how you would like to consume it. The Transition from PKS to TKG is much like the transition from NSX-V to NSX-T, however in all these cases, I think the differences between TKG versions are much simpler than say the differences between vSphere 6.x and 7, or the differences between NSX-V and NSX-T. With all the flavors of TKG including TKGI, the differences are in the back-end, the kubernetes clusters that users interact with and deploy applications on, are all running the same exact TKG Kubernetes Binaries, ensuring kubernetes user experience and application deployments are seamless across all flavors.

  2. Hello Cormac,

    How is Tanzu Kubernetes Grid being licensed/priced?
    I can’t find any online information on that.

    Thanks for the info.


    1. I don’t have these details Christophe. I would reach out to your local VMware rep for details. If you don’t have one, let me know and I will see if I can get someone from the ‘Tanzu’ group to talk to you.

  3. Hi Cormac,
    Any update on the 4 Node VCF consolidated cluster?
    I know it does mention no support for TKGi but is that a technical reason or simply a validation one. On a POC scenario that would be valuable if it was possible.

  4. When someone like you, Cormac, have to start out with this sentence: “Essential PKS is a little bit harder to explain”… I am really not sure the VMware marketing department did a good enough job with the this…

    1. Hey Danni,

      I think the difficulty is bringing all of the modern app products we currently have under the Tanzu umbrella. My viewpoint (and this is just my own view) is that everything will eventually merge into a consolidated TKG offering, but because we now have ex-Heptio customers, ex-Pivotal customers and indeed existing VMware customers who all consume part of this portfolio, there are a few different TKG flavors at present. That is why I created the post. I hope it made things clearer, and not added to the confusion.

  5. Hi Cormac. I am not sure about the differences between TKG+ and TKGI. What is the difference of the target?

    1. TKGI is the new name for Enterprise PKS, formerly known as Pivotal Container Service. It allows for the deployment of ‘opinionated’ Kubernetes clusters on top of vSphere. It is a joint VMware/Pivotal engineered solution. This solution offers high availability for your K8s clusters, auto-scaling of worker nodes, health-checks, self-healing in the event of a failure, and rolling upgrades to ensure there is no downtime to your application.

      TKG+ is the new name for Essential PKS, formerly known as Heptio Kubernetes Subscription. It is, in effect, a Kubernetes distribution which has been engineered by VMware. The plus version also includes a number of open source offerings such as Velero and Sonobuoy.

      There is a lot more details that you can find about each if you do a google search, but I hope that short description makes sense and helps differentiate the offerings?

    2. Hi Hike, just to add some to Cormac’s response, Both TKG+ and TKGI provide management services that can automate the deployment and lifecycle management of Kubernetes clusters, and can deliver clusters on demand. TKGI uses the open source BOSH platform for deployment and lfm of k8s clusters. BOSH is a mature platform that has deployed complex applications and container orchestration systems across vsphere and leading cloud providers for many years. TKG+ cluster deploy & lfm uses a new initiative called cluster API which is an emerging project within Kubernetes. While still very new, VMwares clusterAPI implementation is robust and stable. The standard itself has seen strong commitment from all major Kubernetes solution providers, and is likely going to be the future of how most K8s distros will interact with various underlying IaaS providers to provision machines for kubernetes cluster deployments. At this time BOSH still has more feature support, however there is a massive community growing behind cluster API and over time we expect it will gain feature parity and become the most common solution for K8s machine deployment. There are other differences but this is the most significant. Both TKGI and TKG+ deploy standard, conformant kubernetes clusters ensuring that k8s users and applications can work seamlessly between offerings.

  6. Very useful post. I would love to see a functionality comparsion matrix between VMware Tanzu Kubernetes Grid with vSphere 7 and VMware Tanzu Kubernetes Grid with vSphere 7.

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