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Microsoft Readies Simplified and Rapid Container Deployment Service in Azure

Looking to simplify the deployment of containers, Microsoft is ramping up a new service in Azure that will allow customers to deploy them on the fly. The company today announced its new Azure Container Instances (ACI) and a Kubernetes-based connector that will enable orchestration.

Microsoft is offering the new ACI service in technical preview, initially for Linux containers, with support for Windows planned in the coming weeks. The preview initially will be available in the U.S. East and West and Europe West Azure regions. The company has also released with the preview its new ACI Connector for Kubernetes, an open source tool that will allow for the orchestration of Kubernetes-based container clusters.

Corey Sanders, Microsoft's director of Azure Compute, described ACI as variably sized single containers that deploy on the fly without requiring virtual machines, with usage to be billed by the second. "It offers the fastest and easiest way to run a container in the cloud," Sanders said during a webcast announcing ACI and the Kubernetes connector. Sanders noted that for typical container deployments, administrators must create a virtual machine to host that container.

"That amount of time to get started and that amount of work to deploy a container has now gone away with Azure Container Instances," Sanders said. "It offers a much faster way to launch those containers by directly launching the container itself instead of first creating the virtual machine."

Sanders elaborated on the annoucement in a blog post. "As the service directly exposes containers, there is no VM management you need to think about or higher-level cluster orchestration concepts to learn," he noted. "It is simply your code, in a container, running in the cloud."

In addition to simplifying the deployment and management of container-based workloads by taking the VM out of the picture, Sanders emphasized that the appeal of containers is their ability to scale and shut down on the fly in an agile and cost-effective manner. In addition to the per-second billing, customers can pay by the gigabyte and CPU, allowing them to choose the capacity needed for the containers.

"This lets customers and developers make sure the platform is perfectly fitting their workload, not paying for a second more than required and not paying for a gigabyte more of memory than necessary," he said during today's call.  "Customers can designate the amount of memory separate from the exact count of vCPUs, so your application perfectly fits on the infrastructure," he added in his blog post. "With ACI, containers are a first-class object of the Azure platform, offering Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) on the instance and billing tags to track usage at the individual container level."

In addition to the ACI Kubernetes cluster, customers can deploy ACI instances from a Docker hub repository, which supports a large set of commercial, custom or internally built based containers or from an Azure Container Registry as well as private registries.

Along with today's new service, Microsoft said it has joined the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) as a Platinum member. CNCF, which is a project sponsored by the Linux Foundation (Microsoft joined last year), governs various container projects including Kubernetes, Prometheus, OpenTracing, Fluentd, Linkerd, containerd, Helm and gRPC, among others. Gabe Monroy, lead program manager for Microsoft Azure containers, is joining the CNCF board.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 07/26/2017 at 1:51 PM


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