Microsoft Brings Container Technology to Hyper-V

Microsoft on Wednesday launched Hyper-V Containers in a move aimed at letting developers build more scalable apps and advancing container technology to more deployment scenarios and workloads.

The announcement comes just a month before Microsoft's planned release of the second technical preview of its next-generation Windows Server product, commonly referred to as Windows Server 2016. As part of Wednesday's announcement, Microsoft also revealed plans to offer a container-based, scaled-down version of Windows Server called "Nano Server," which is aimed at modern, cloud-native applications. Microsoft is expected to demonstrate Windows Server 2016 at its Build conference in San Francisco this month.

Hyper-V Containers will offer a deployment option to running applications on Windows Server. Microsoft announced last fall that the next version of Windows Server will support containers, which are lightweight runtime environments with many of the core components of a virtual machine and isolated services of an operating system, designed to package and execute so-called micro-services. However, while Microsoft has talked about the addition of containers to Windows Server before, the addition of Hyper-V Containers is something new.

Microsoft has previously described a partnership with Docker to ensure its containers could run in Windows Server environments. That move followed an earlier announcement in June 2014 to ensure that the Azure public cloud could run Docker containers on Linux-based virtual machines. Microsoft has also indicated that Azure will support Docker's open orchestration APIs and Docker Hub images in the Azure Gallery and Portal.

The latest addition of Hyper-V Containers will offer extended isolation using the attributes of not just the Windows operating system but also Hyper-V virtualization, according to Mike Neil, Microsoft's general manager for Windows Server, in a blog post.

"Virtualization has historically provided a valuable level of isolation that enables these scenarios but there is now opportunity to blend the efficiency and density of the container model with the right level of isolation," Neil wrote. "Microsoft will now offer containers with a new level of isolation previously reserved only for fully dedicated physical or virtual machines, while maintaining an agile and efficient experience with full Docker cross-platform integration. Through this new first-of-its-kind offering, Hyper-V Containers will ensure code running in one container remains isolated and cannot impact the host operating system or other containers running on the same host."

Hyper-V Containers will support the same development and management tools as those designed for Windows Server containers, Neil noted. Moreover, he said developers don't need to modify applications built for Windows Server containers in order to run in Hyper-V Containers.

For modern application scenarios where Hyper-V and Windows Server would be overkill, Neil described the new Nano Server as "a minimal footprint installation option of Windows Server that is highly optimized for the cloud, including containers. Nano Server provides just the components you need -- nothing else, meaning smaller server images, which reduces deployment times, decreases network bandwidth consumption, and improves uptime and security. This small footprint makes Nano Server an ideal complement for Windows Server Containers and Hyper-V Containers, as well as other cloud-optimized scenarios."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.