Microsoft Ups Its Ante in Containers

By Pedro Hernandez  |  Posted 2015-08-18 Print this article Print
Microsoft containers

Microsoft is retooling Windows Server and Azure as enterprises flock to application container technologies like Docker.

Docker and a growing number of application container virtualization technologies are not only taking the data center by storm, they're spawning an ecosystem of IT solutions to help businesses monitor, manage and orchestrate their newly containerized environments. Microsoft, too, is getting in on the act with the next version of its server operating system.

"In Windows Server 2016, we will be releasing two flavors of containers, both of which will be deployable using Docker APIs and the Docker client: Windows Server Containers and Hyper-V Containers," wrote Mark Russinovich, CTO of Microsoft Azure, in an Aug. 17 blog post explaining his company's container vision and outlook.

Naturally, customers will need to keep compatibility in mind. "Linux containers require Linux APIs from the host kernel and Windows Server Containers require the Windows APIs of a host Windows kernel, so you cannot run Linux containers on a Windows Server host or a Windows Server Container on a Linux host," Russinovich noted.

Microsoft is no stranger to Docker. In January, the first Docker image hit the company's Azure Marketplace. The following month, the company announced the beta releases of the Docker Machine and Swarm orchestration tools for Azure cloud customers.

Embracing containers is also a way for the company to push seamless, agile DevOps.

"From a developer's desktop to a testing machine to a set of production machines, a Docker image can be created that will deploy identically across any environment in seconds," Russinovich said. This capability has proven explosive, he added, yielding "a massive and growing ecosystem of applications packaged in Docker containers, with DockerHub, the public containerized-application registry that Docker maintains, currently publishing more than 180,000 applications in the public community repository."

To keep that momentum going and ensure a healthy ecosystem, Microsoft is championing interoperability. "Additionally, to guarantee the packaging format remains universal, Docker recently organized the Open Container Initiative (OCI), aiming to ensure container packaging remains an open and foundation-led format, with Microsoft as one of the founding members," Russinovich said.

Last month, Docker Inc. joined with the rival to Open Container Project to kick off the OCI. Reading like a list of the technology industry heavyweights, other members include Amazon Web Services, AT&T, HP, IBM, Oracle and Verizon, among several others.

Microsoft also envisions that containers will usher in a cloud-powered era of scalable, microservice-based enterprise applications.

"Microservices is an approach to application development where every part of the application is deployed as a fully self-contained component, called a microservice that can be individually scaled and updated," explained Russinovich. "With a good microservice architecture, customers can solve the management, deployment, orchestration and patching needs of a container-based service with reduced risk of availability loss while maintaining high agility."

Microsoft is already putting microservices to work in the company's internal Service Fabric platform-as-a-service technology, which helps power Cortana, Azure SQL Database and Skype for Business. A public preview of Service Fabric is slated for later this year.


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