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Microsoft and Partners Highlight Emerging Kubernetes on Azure Tools

Some progress on the Kubernetes on Azure front emerged from this week's KubeCon event taking place in Austin, Texas.

Kubernetes is a container orchestration solution used across server clusters that was originally fostered by Google. Containers are an operating system virtualization approach that makes it easier for developers to spin up applications without conflicts. Microsoft has been touting the use of Kubernetes on Azure datacenter infrastructure for managing containers, arguing that the use of its cloud services can reduce Kubernetes' management complexity. Along those lines, Microsoft previewed a managed Kubernetes on Azure solution called "AKS" back in October, and announced various partnerships.

This week, Microsoft announced serverless container developments, an open source service broker, a new pipeline visualization tool and more associated with Kubernetes on Azure and its work with various open source solution partners.

Virtual Kubelet
On the serverless container side, Microsoft this week announced "Virtual Kubelet," a new version of a Kubernetes connector used with Azure Container Instances. The Azure Container Instances service is a serverless runtime for containers that doesn't involve the management of virtual machines, while also providing isolation for applications like a virtual machine would do.

Microsoft is collaborating with Hyper.sh, a provider of its "Hyper hypervisor-agnostic Docker runtime," on the open source Virtual Kubelet project. Hyper.sh is adding support via its Kata Containers for "seamless multicloud container deployment between Kubernetes-based 'serverless container' platforms," according to the announcement.

Open Service Broker for Azure
Microsoft also announced a preview of Open Service Broker for Azure (OSBA) this week, which provides APIs to 11 Azure services for applications to use. OSBA works with "Kubernetes, Cloud Foundry, or OpenShift in Azure, Azure Stack, [and] your own on-prem environment," Microsoft explained, in another announcement this week.

It's possible to interact with the Kubernetes service catalog via a new command-line interface, which is at the alpha release stage at GitHub. There's also the option to use Helm Charts to add services. A Helm Chart is an application package manager for Kubernetes based on Microsoft's acquisition of Deis in April. It's possible to use OSBA with a Helm Chart to add a WordPress site supported by MySQL on Azure, for instance, according to Microsoft.

OSBA was chipped off from the Open Service Broker API for Azure services. However, OSBA will be taking precedence, going forward.

"Because of today's announcement, we plan to supersede the meta-Azure-Service-Broker project in favor of OSBA and will work closely with our Cloud Foundry customers to ensure a smooth migration," Microsoft explained in the announcement.

Kashti Dashboard
Microsoft also announced this week that there's a new Kashti project, which provides a way to visualize Brigade workflows and pipelines via a Web browser.

Brigade is a fairly new serverless computing tool. It lets developers and IT pros script multiple tasks to execute inside containers that are managed by Kubernetes. The use of Kashti adds a dashboard view of the Brigade scripting. Kashti can be installed using a Helm Chart, Microsoft's announcement noted.

Project Calico
Microsoft is partnering with Tigera on Project Calico, an open source datacenter networking solution maintained by Tigera that aims to "simplify, scale and secure networks and services managed by Kubernetes," according to an announcement.

Microsoft is contributing code so that Project Calico's functionality is extended to Windows Server version 1709, which is Microsoft's service-enabled product version. The effort is expected to bring "parity with Linux for Kubernetes from a platform perspective," according to Microsoft. In addition, Project Calico will facilitate the management of mixed Linux and Windows Kubernetes clusters.

"The result of this work is that users running mixed OS (Linux and Windows) Kubernetes clusters can now define and manage network policy in a consistent manner to secure their containerized applications and microservices," Microsoft's announcement explained. "Previously, network policy enforcement for container endpoints could not be managed on Windows nodes even though the platform itself (VFP) included this capability. DevOps and admins can now associate security policies with specific endpoints and services on these mixed clusters."

The Project Calico effort is currently at the beta test level, with "a goal of reaching general availability in the first half of 2018."

Heptio Ark for Azure
Microsoft and Heptio are collaborating on a backup and disaster recovery solution that's being designed for Kubernetes on Azure. Heptio Ark, launched this year, adds disaster recovery to clusters via snapshots. It also supports moving Kubernetes-managed applications between Azure datacenters and an organization's infrastructure ("on-premises" environments). That capability currently works with stateless applications, but Heptio also is working on adding the ability to move stateful workloads as well, according to a blog post by Craig McLuckie, Heptio's CEO.

The collaboration with Microsoft will support backup and recovery to the Azure Container Service (AKS).

"With the Heptio-Microsoft collaboration, we will be working together to bring the power of the full scope of Heptio Ark to Microsoft Azure --  ensuring that organizations can not only backup and restore content into Azure Container Service (AKS), but that snapshots created using Ark are persisted in Azure and are encrypted at rest," McLuckie explained.

Heptio Ark is an extensible solution that will support the addition of plug-ins to work with various cloud service providers.

About the Author

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

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