Microsoft Brings Open Source Kubernetes to Azure Containers

Microsoft on Tuesday announced new support for Kubernetes, a Google-fostered open source technology, in its Azure Container Service.

The new Kubernetes capability reaches "general availability" on Feb. 22, according to the announcement. Kubernetes is used for automating container deployments, as well as scaling their operations, across datacenter clusters.

The container technology itself is an operating system virtualization approach that promises a more lightweight way to deploy applications than just installing them on virtual machines. Applications in containers are isolated from the underlying host infrastructure because "they have their own filesystems, they can't see each others' processes, and their computational resource usage can be bounded," according to an explanation by The Linux Foundation. This decoupled aspect also makes containers portable across cloud computing infrastructures.

The Azure Container Service typically might be used for dev/test scenarios, where developers can spin up various software iterations without conflict using container technology. However, the containers still need managing, and developers can use a few open source orchestrators with the Azure Container Service.

Kubernetes is one of those orchestrators, and its general availability status means that Microsoft considers it ready for commercial use. The other production-ready platform is the Mesosphere Data Center Operating System (DC/OS), now updated to version 1.8.8. It's an open source Apache Mesos-based platform that supports the use of containers and Big Data implementations, and its latest version includes a new Metronome orchestration framework for scheduling jobs.

Microsoft and Mesosphere have produced a white paper on using DC/OS. Organizations can use the DC/OS platform to manage potential container sprawl, something that can happen as applications get spun up into datacenters. DC/OS has "operational features such as monitoring, security, compliance" plus a "self-healing infrastructure" when using the Azure Container Service, the white paper explained.

Microsoft is also bullish on Kubernetes use with the Azure Container Service, calling it "infrastructure for next-generation applications, PaaS and more," according to a blog post by Brendan Burns, a partner architect at Microsoft and co-founder of Kubernetes. He added that container technologies have taken over some platform-as-a-service capabilities, such as packaging and distribution of applications, as well as automatic scaling and load balancing. Containers aren't replacing PaaS, Burns argued, but their use takes away some of the burdens that previously required system engineering expertise.

Burns also noted that Microsoft is working on the use of "hybrid clusters" in the Azure Container Service, with general availability expected "in the coming months." Presumably, "hybrid" signals that the Azure Container Service can be used in the future across both customer premises infrastructure and public cloud infrastructure, but Burns didn't elaborate.

Another orchestration option is to use Windows Server Containers with Kubernetes on the Azure Container Service, but that's only available at the "preview" test stage right now. Docker Swarm is yet another orchestration option, but it's also at the preview stage with the Azure Container Service.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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