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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,  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.

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