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Azure Container Service Goes Live with Mesosphere DC/OS Integration

Today Microsoft announced the commercial availability of its Azure Container Service, while its partner Mesosphere announced the launch of a new open source DC/OS project.

The two announcements are related. They represent an industry push toward simplifying distributed computing and making the running of containerized applications a bit easier. Both efforts center on Apache Mesos, which is an open source cluster management solution that originally was developed at the University of California at Berkeley in 2009, but was subsequently shepherded by the Apache Software Foundation, an open source projects community.

Azure Container Service Goes Live
Microsoft today announced that its Azure Container Service, which was launched as a preview back in December, had reached the "general availability" stage, meaning that it's considered ready for commercial use. The Azure Container Service supports Docker container images, which makes containerized applications portable across "any cloud and on-premises" environments, according to Microsoft's announcement, attributed to Ross Gardler, a senior program manager at Microsoft Azure.

"Unlike other container services, the Azure Container Service is built on 100% open source software to maximize portability of workloads and offers a choice among popular orchestration engines: DC/OS or Docker Swarm," Gardler explained.

The DC/OS project, announced by Mesosphere today as an open source project, is based on Mesosphere's Datacenter Operating System product. DC/OS is now available as version 1.7 in beta form. However, Mesosphere expects that DC/OS will reach general availability by Q3 of this year. The solution is being released under an Apache License 2.0 open source license, and Mesosphere is considering options for open source stewardship under the Apache Software Foundation, Cloud Native Computing Foundation or the Linux Foundation.

And now DC/OS is part of Microsoft's Azure Container Service as well.

"Microsoft has worked closely with Mesosphere to bring DC/OS to Azure Container Service customers," Gardler indicated. DC/OS is available from Microsoft both through the Azure Container Service and the Azure Marketplace.

Microsoft has also described its role as being a "founding member of the new open source DC/OS community," according to a blog post by John Gossmann, an architect at Microsoft Azure. It's worked with Mesosphere for about 1.5 years. In addition to contributing to the DC/OS project, Microsoft plans to work with Mesosphere to add future Windows support.

"Microsoft is also working with Mesosphere to add Windows support to the Apache Mesos project," Gossmann wrote. "When that work is complete it will be possible to extend DC/OS to mixed environments of Windows and Linux."

What Is DC/OS?
DC/OS is an open source platform for distributed systems. It started with Mesos, which was designed at U.C. Berkeley to be a "foundation for distributed systems of all different kinds," according to Benjamin Hindman, cofounder and chief architect at Mesosphere, in a blog post. Mesos was conceived as being like an operating system kernel. It was kept simple, while permitting other capabilities to be added, such as "service discovery, load balancing (internal and external), user/service authentication and authorization, and command-line and user interfaces," Hindman explained.

DC/OS is considered to be complementary to Mesos by improving its "primitive" capabilities. It's designed to democratize distributed computing for smaller organizations.

"Organizations that run Mesos quickly discover they need all of the components we've built into DC/OS," Hindman said, in a released statement. "DC/OS will democratize large-scale distributed systems and the applications they power, building on the work of the Apache Mesos kernel. By open sourcing DC/OS we're enabling organizations of all sizes to harness the same computing infrastructure as the Twitters and Apples of the world."

DC/OS can combine datacenter resources into "a single logical computer on which many workloads (Docker containers, Hadoop, Spark and Kafka, to name a few) can run simultaneously," according to Mesosphere's announcement. The largest example supports "tens of thousands of servers," the announcement added.

Part of its simplification is that the DC/OS components get added in a store-like manner. It's possible to click and install services such as Apache Cassandra, Apache Kafka, Apache Spark, HDFS, NGINX and more using the Universe store, which houses more than 20 services for distributed systems. DC/OS has the Marathon orchestration service built into it, which is also part of Microsoft's Azure Container Service. There's also a command-line interface, plus graphical user interface (GUI)-based installers for cloud and premises environments. Management and monitoring is also GUI based, according to Mesosphere's announcement.

Mesosphere will continue to sell its Datacenter Operating System Enterprise Edition product, now called "Enterprise DC/OS," even with the open source release of DC/OS. "The two versions will remain distinct," Mesosphere's announcement indicated. Mesosphere is also building tools for both products, including Infinity (for real-time data processing) and Velocity (for application development lifecycle management).

Microsoft, for its part, claims to simplify things further by offering DC/OS through the Azure Container Service.

"We believe Azure Container Service is the easiest way to get started with DC/OS for learning and experimentation or for production workloads," Gossmann stated.

There currently are more than 50 partners backing DC/OS, according to Gardler. Microsoft is one such backer, and also has invested in Mesosphere. The DC/OS partners include such diverse companies as Accenture, Big Switch, Canonical, Chef, Cisco, Citrix, Equinix, HPE, NetApp, Verizon and Yelp, among others.

Cisco plans to leverage DC/OS to support its Mantl microservices infrastructure. Equinix is using DC/OS to support an Internet of Things-type network. Verizon is tapping DC/OS to standardize operations across its datacenters. Yelp has been using DC/OS for managing "a large Docker environment that spans our private datacenters and the public cloud," according to Mesosphere's announcement.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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