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Microsoft Previews Managed Kubernetes on Azure plus Georeplication Service

Microsoft today announced previews of new services aimed at making Kubernetes on Azure easier to manage for developers and IT pros.

Kubernetes is an open source container orchestration solution that was originally fostered by Google. It's designed for scaling operations across clusters, but it may not be too easy to maintain. Microsoft lately has touted running Kubernetes workloads on its Azure cloud computing infrastructure as a way to ease some of those complexities.

Managed Kubernetes on Azure Preview
On Tuesday, Microsoft announced a couple of previews of new services aimed at simplifying Kubernetes on Azure. There's a new preview of managed Kubernetes on Azure, which Microsoft is calling "AKS." Microsoft already has an Azure Container Service (ACS) with support for Kubernetes, but the preview of AKS adds "automated upgrades, self-healing, easy scaling and a simple user experience for both developers and cluster operators," according to Microsoft's announcement. It takes the old ACS service and adds a "hosted control plane" on top of it to manage the virtual machines, according to a video accompanying the announcement.

Microsoft isn't planning to charge for the use of the AKS service. It just charges for the Azure compute time and for the use of the virtual machines.

In a presentation to the press on Monday, Gabe Monroy, principal program manager for Azure Containers at Microsoft and former CTO of Deis, acquired by Microsoft in April, said that AKS provides the benefit of Kubernetes without the complexity and operational overhead. With AKS, organizations only pay for the use of their Kubernetes nodes on Azure. He added that the master infrastructure gets handled by Azure behind the scenes so that organizations can focus on the applications they spin up. While people say that it's hard to upgrade Kubernetes, Microsoft has simplified it with an automated process.

Geo Replication Preview
Microsoft today also announced the "general availability" of Azure Container Registry, which means it's deemed ready for production use. Azure Container Registry is used to replicate container images across Azure's global regions.

In a related announcement, Microsoft is previewing a new Azure Container Registry Geo Replication service, which lets users use a single registry by just clicking on an Azure map. The idea is to use the closest registry to reduce latency. "Any push/pull of a container image to ACR will be routed to the closest registry," according to the announcement. The Geo Replication capability, when released for production use, will be an Azure Premium feature, according to a video accompanying the announcement.

Kubernetes on Azure
Microsoft likes the use of containers for building software, especially when leveraging cloud infrastructure. Containers help with the replication of applications, the portability of apps from premises to the cloud and the agility with which software can be built, according to Brendan Burns, a Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft and cofounder of Kubernetes, in the Monday talk.

The decoupling that happens with containers, an operating system virtualization approach, allows developers to focus on their applications, while machine administrators don't have to worry about the apps that are running on the operating system, Burns explained.

Microsoft is backing Kubernetes for managing containers, as well as the broader community that's behind the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, Burns explained.

"So, today we're talking a lot about Kubernetes and I think that it's important to note that over those three years there's been a really significant growth in the number of these open source projects for doing cloud data things, especially with containers," Burns said. "And I think, out of that, Kubernetes has emerged as a leader, as well as the Cloud Native Compute Foundation, which is a collection of open source projects. Kubernetes may be sort of a flagship project in that, but there's a whole bunch of open broad ecosystem projects that enable us to build cloud solutions, both on top of Kubernetes as well as elsewhere."

Burns added that Microsoft had joined the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, a Linux Foundation initiative, in the summer as a Platinum Member. One of the motivations was support for "this amazing ecosystem that really has gone across the entire computing industry," he said.

For more about Microsoft's involvement with open source tools and Kubernetes on Azure, see this June talk, where Microsoft outlined some of its open source collaborations. The talk featured Kubernetes tooling efforts in collaboration with the Cloud Foundry Foundation (which Microsoft joined in June), Docker, Canonical, Pivotal Red Hat and Chef.

About the Author

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

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