Docker comes to Microsoft Azure

As expected, container technology, especially Docker, has become hotter than ever in clouds. What you might not have expected was for Microsoft to adopt Docker for Azure. Well, surprise! They have.

First, a little background. Clouds are built on virtual machine (VM) hypervisors such as Hyper-V, KVM, and Xen. While you can run multiple VMs on a server, since each VM contains an entire operating system, they’re fat in terms of system resources.

Containers, on the other hand, use shared operating systems, That makes them skinnier. In turn, that means containers let you run more apps on a server than a VM will, and that gives you more value from your server hardware investment.

Now, there’s nothing new about containers. But Docker provides a standardized way to pack, ship, and run any application as a lightweight, portable, self-sufficient container that can run virtually anywhere. While Docker started as a Linux technology, Microsoft has been working on bringing it to Azure, its cloud technology, and now it’s getting close to ready to go.

Microsoft has been working on running Docker containers on Windows Server and Linux since early 2014. Indeed, Microsoft has open-sourced its code and it’s been working with Docker to place Windows components and Linux components managed under Docker’s joint umbrella.

This is not Bill Gates’ Microsoft.

Microsoft is about ready to demo its new Docker technology at the Microsoft BUILD conference. This technology is scheduled to appear in production in Windows Server 2016.

Here’s what Microsoft will be bringing to the table.

First, Hyper-V containers will, says Microsoft General Manager of Windows Server Mike Neil, bring “containers with a new level of isolation previously reserved only for fully dedicated physical or virtual machines, while maintaining an agile and efficient experience with full Docker cross-platform integration. Through this new first-of-its-kind offering, Hyper-V Containers will ensure code running in one container remains isolated and cannot impact the host operating system or other containers running on the same host.”

Security is one of the greatest worries with container technology. If Microsoft can deliver on this, it will make Hyper-V containers very attractive.

In addition, Microsoft promises that “applications developed for Windows Server Containers can be deployed as a Hyper-V Container without modification, providing greater flexibility for operators who need to choose degrees of density, agility, and isolation in a multi-platform, multi-application environment.” That’s another win.

Second, Microsoft, following numerous Linux vendors such as Canonical, CoreOS, and Red Hat, is introducing its own small-footprint cloud operating system for containers: Nano Server. This new operating system features “a minimal footprint installation option of Windows Server that is highly optimized for the cloud, including containers. Nano Server provides just the components you need – nothing else, meaning smaller server images, which reduces deployment times, decreases network bandwidth consumption, and improves uptime and security. This small footprint makes Nano Server an ideal complement for Windows Server Containers and Hyper-V Containers, as well as other cloud-optimized scenarios.”

According to Microsoft, Nano Server is designed for two usage scenarios:

  • Born-in-the-cloud applications – support for multiple programming languages and runtimes (e.g. C#, Java, Node.js, Python, etc.) running in containers, virtual machines, or on physical servers.
  • Microsoft Cloud Platform infrastructure – support for compute clusters running Hyper-V and storage clusters running Scale-out File Server.

On top of that, based on the current builds, compared to Windows Server 2012, Nano Server has:

  • 93 percent lower VHD size
  • 92 percent fewer critical bulletins
  • 80 percent fewer reboots

Does that sound like what you want in your cloud? I bet it does!

While Nano Server and Azure Containers are works in progress, they promise to make Azure cloud technologies much more promising.


  1. nice post
    & Thanks for sharing



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    […] offerings, everything else in the cloud is OSS. Indeed, Microsoft has embraced open-source in its Azure cloud with Docker and VMware has its own OpenStack cloud. The cloud will be OSS. And, to the best of my knowledge, […]


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