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Windows Server 2016 Arrives Ready to Rev Docker Engine

The release of Windows Server 2016 this week is a major upgrade to Microsoft's venerable server OS thanks to a number of significant new features. But it could be argued that the most distinct new capabilility is its support for containers. That's important because with containers, Windows Server 2016 will be able to run applications and workloads not built to run on Windows, notably Linux, but also those designed to run in cloud environments. 

In addition to supporting Windows and Hyper-V containers -- initially via the runtime environment of the Docker open source container platform -- Windows Server 2016 will include a commercial version of the Docker Engine.

At last month's Ignite conference in Atlanta, Docker and Microsoft said they have extended their partnership, inked more than two years ago, in which a commercially supported version of the Docker engine will be included with Windows Server 2016 at no extra cost.

"This makes it incredibly easy for developers and IT administrators to leverage container-based deployments using Windows Server 2016," Microsoft Executive VP for Cloud and Enterprise Scott Guthrie said in the Ignite keynote.

I had a chance to speak with Docker COO Scott Johnson at Ignite, where he described the next phase of the two companies' relationship, the details of the new arrangement and how the company hopes to widen the reach of Docker containers to the Windows world.

With regard to this new arrangement, does that mean Docker Engine is built into Windows Server 2016?
If you buy Windows Server 2016, you have access to the Docker Engine, which, behind the scenes, will be downloaded from Docker. The user will have the option to just activate Docker and it will appear in front of them.

Are you both providing joint support?
The deal has three legs. First is the commercially supported Docker Engine, the second is commercial support and that's provided by Microsoft, backed by Docker. And the third leg is with our Docker Datacenter product, which helps IT organizations manage these containerized workloads. So that will be jointly promoted by Microsoft and Docker to the Windows Server user base.

Where do you see customers using Docker Datacenter?
What we see is they'll start with the Docker Engine. They will play with a couple of containers, get them fired up. But once IT operations gets a sense that this is a real application architecture, IT operations will says "how do I manage all of these containers? How do I move them from lab to production? How do I move from datacenter to cloud?" Docker Datacenter is the management tooling that helps them do that. So it's the management tools on top of the runtime.

Will it work with Microsoft's System Center?
It pares well with System Center and OMS [Operations Management Suite] in that you can think of them as managing the infrastructure layer. So they're managing the hardware and the hypervisors, and Docker Datacenter is managing the applications in the containers on top of the infrastructure. Microsoft actually produced an OMS monitoring agent for Docker already. So there's already good integration happening already.

How do the Windows Containers fit into Docker containers? Meaning, what is the relationship between them?
The Windows kernel has the container primitives and the Docker Engine takes advantage of those primitives. So when Microsoft says Windows Containers or Hyper-V containers, that's synonymous with Docker Engine containers. The way you take advantage of Windows containers is using the Docker Engine interface. They're part and parcel of the same thing.

Are you anticipating a lot of Windows Server shops will go this route?
What we've seen with the tech previews is that there's actually quite a bit of pickup even in a raw technology preview stage of Windows shops doing a lift-and-shift-type motion with their .NET apps. So they will take an existing app, pick it up off the host, off the VMs, put it over into a Docker container and right away they're able to iterate faster in their CI [continuous integration efforts]. They have a build artifact that they can move from developer to developer. So with Tyco's use case, they're using Docker containers on Windows Server to do a lift and shift and bring a dev ops process to their Windows development, which a couple of years ago, peoples' heads would have exploded. But you're seeing those two worlds come together, largely facilitated by the Docker containers.

What apps lend themselves best for this lift and shift?
Web apps work very well. Mobile apps work very well.

There's this question of whether containers will replace the VM. Does this lend credibility to that argument?
I think that's a long-term discussion. VMs have a hardware isolation level that is built in with 10 years of development. The automation and tooling and security signoffs, have all been built around VMs, the entire army of VMware and Hyper-V admins have built their careers on VMs. So they're not going away anytime soon. And VMs and containers are actually very complimentary because containers are OS virtualization and VMs are hardware virtualization. So they're different layers of the stack. Today they're not one to one, where one replaces the other. In the future is that how it rolls forward? We'll have to wait and see, but that's not how we're positioning the main benefit is today.

But it is an option when you talk about trying to reduce the footprint?
What we see happening is we see them using a single VM with Docker and multiple containers in that VM so they get the isolation benefits and the automation benefits that they've already invested in. They also get the density benefits of multiple containers with multiple apps inside a single VM.  You can get the best of both worlds by doing that and still take your footprint down, but still have the security and automation tooling.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 10/14/2016 at 11:44 AM


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