Microsoft Tunes Azure Container Instances for Serverless Future

Jumping on the serverless train, Azure Container Instances allows businesses to quickly deploy containers in the cloud.

Azure Serverless Containers

Microsoft's rapid cloud container deployment service, Azure Container Instances (ACI), has shed it beta status and is now generally available, the Redmond, Wash. technology giant announced on April 25.

With Azure Container Instances, users can take a serverless approach to deploying Linux- and Windows-based containers in the cloud.

Serverless processing has been gaining momentum since Amazon Web Services Lambda appeared in 2014. Also known as FaaS, or Function-as-a-Service, serverless platforms enable enterprises to run applications on the cloud without provisioning or managing servers.

The term is somewhat of a misnomer; serverless solutions actually require servers to power the workloads placed on them. What is not required is that users maintain or even know where those servers are located. Instead, cloud providers take assume the responsibility of maintaining the underlying infrastructure that supports the workloads.

It's an alluring proposition for businesses looking to spend less time configuring IT systems and focus their energies on delivering new applications and services. For early customers of the Azure Container Instances service, it's also providing a cost-effective alternative to dealing with spikes in demand compared to spinning up traditional instances of the same application, according to Corey Sanders, corporate vice president of Azure at Microsoft.

"ACI supports quick, cleanly packaged burst compute that removes the overhead of managing cluster machines," Sanders blogged. "ACI enables each stage of work to be efficiently packaged as a container assigned with custom resource definitions for agile development, testing, and deployment. By processing the data with ACI rather than statically provisioned virtual machines, you can achieve significant cost savings due to ACI's granular per-second billing."

Other use cases include event-driven computing, batch processing and continuous integration, he added. By this summer, those workloads will be less expensive to operate on the service.

On July 1, Microsoft is lowering the cost of using Azure Container Instances. For starters, the company is completely eliminating the $0.0025 fee charged to create an instance on the service. Virtual CPU per second and GB per second charges are being reduced to $0.000012 and $0.000004, respectively, from $0.0000125 for both. Those prices reflect the amounts Microsoft plans to charge from its Californian data centers, other regions may vary.

Sanders also announced that its Virtual Kubelet project has gained momentum, earning the backing of VMware, AWS and Hyper.sh since its introduction during the KubeCon conference in December 2017. Virtual Kubelet is an open-source connector that allows the Kubernetes container orchestration platform to target Azure Container Instances and similar serverless offerings.

Amazon, meanwhile, has also been expanding its own serverless ecosystem.

In February, the company officially launched the AWS Serverless Application Repository. One of the many cloud services unveiled at re:Invent 2017, AWS Serverless Application Repository allows users to quickly search, find and deploy AWS Lambda-compatible applications and components. In August 2017, Amazon released AWS SAM (Serverless Application Model) Local, a tool that enables developers to build and test serverless applications on a local machine before deploying them in the cloud.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...