Ex VMware, Microsoft and Citrix workers set up application container company

Start up ContainerX has created a platform for IT operations administrators to centrally manage clusters of application containers.

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In 2006 VMware released a breakthrough technology named dynamic resource scheduling (DRS), which allowed its virtual machine management software to automatically reallocate virtual machines among different applications based on their load.

A startup founded by some of the VMware team members who helped create that feature, which is backed by the former CTO of VMware who oversaw the project, is attempting to bring that same technology natively to application containers.

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ContainerX is launching today and hopes to make a splash at the DockerCon EU conference next week in Spain – the semi-annual gathering of all things containers. ContainerX is a year old and has raised $2.7 million, including from backers Steve Herrod of General Catalyst, who is the former VMware CTO, and Jerry Chen of Greylock Partners, also a former VMware exec.

Container hype is running high. Developers have flocked to the technology for more easily packaging applications and running them across various disparate environments. But Karin Kamity, CEO of ContainerX and formerly of NetApp and Citrix, says tools that allow IT operations professionals to manage those containers are still lacking.

The basic idea of ContainerX is that it aggregates infrastructure resources that containers can be deployed on top of. One of the novel things about the platform is that it is hardware agnostic, meaning that it can control physical bare metal machines, virtualized environments, or even public cloud infrastructure; containers can be launched atop any of those environments while using ContainerX.

Another key to ContainerX is that is allows IT admins to centrally allocate “pools” of containerized resources for individual development teams in an enterprise. This is key, Kamity says, because it creates isolation among the various container pools. That means that if there is a “rogue” container – one that drains compute or network resources – it will not impact other pools of containers.

Where ContainerX really shines is integrating that Dynamic Resource Scheduling technology into this environment. Through a technology it calls Elastic Container Clusters, if one of the container pools has been marked as a high priority one – if it runs a production app, for example - then ContainerX can automatically reallocate infrastructure resources across the pools to provide the high-priority workload the compute or network capacity it needs. Pradeep Padala is ContainerX’s CTO and a PhD who has worked at Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, and was on the team at VMware that helped develop DRS, and now has a patent pending for the Elastic Container Clusters. A third member of the ContainerX team is a former Microsoft principle engineer.

Kamity is hoping that ContainerX can turn into a central platform for IT ops professionals to manage all of their container workloads – sort of like a vSphere for containers. It will have competition though. Many of the virtual machine management vendors – like VMware, Red Hat and even Amazon Web Services – have rolled out support for containers in their existing management tools. There’s also a whole host of other startups attempting to make similar container management platforms, led by Docker, the company that has been credited with much of the innovation in this budding market thusfar.

It’s an emerging market, and one that is still nascent, meaning there is headroom for multiple startups. ContainerX, given its tech all-star backing and PhD-caliber team, could be one of the players to watch. Pricing has not yet been set, but it will be a subscription, freemium model; A beta version of the software will be available soon.

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Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.