Microsoft joins Docker in announcing new container services

Docker’s suite of orchestration services that the container-management startup first detailed in December are now available in beta for the public to download, Docker said on Thursday.

These new orchestration services are just another step for Docker to tout its cloud-agnostic platform, geared for enterprise customers worried about vendor lock-in. Judging by Microsoft’s participation in the announcement, it looks like Microsoft is trying to make itself appealing to those same customers as well.

While this announcement is not too surprising given that the company has made it clear that its eyeing orchestration services as a way to further develop the Docker platform, what’s interesting is how excited Microsoft seems to be. This follows through with Microsoft’s pledge of support to making sure Docker will be fully integrated with its Azure cloud and Windows Server.

Container orchestration refers to the ability to spin up, coordinate, schedule and distribute multiple containers for the purpose of running an organization’s infrastructure; this is an operations task, rather than a development task. One can bundle the services that helps make an application run inside these containers, and with an overarching system that can create and distribute containers when needed, IT staff members don’t have to slave away with the minutiae of keeping that application running.

Simply put, containers are great at isolating applications and services from each other while they all share resources from the same Linux OS kernel. When combined with an orchestration service that can oversee the creation of containers and can spin them up as needed, however, their potential at cutting down overhead becomes that much greater. Just look at Spotify, which developed its own Helios container orchestration framework that’s contributed to a much more efficient infrastructure for the streaming-music provider.

So far, the big public cloud providers of Amazon, Google and [company]Microsoft[/company] have all indicated in one way or another that they view containers as the way of the future for IT operations. Google’s been busy promoting its open-source Kubernetes orchestration framework and in November announced its managed service version of Kubernetes called Google Container Engine, which as of now only functions on the Google Cloud. Amazon, on the other hand, announced its own container orchestration service called EC2 Container Service, which unsurprisingly, works for only the Amazon cloud.

Microsoft hasn’t yet announced a similar container orchestration service, and today’s news seems to highlight the fact that it’s content with just letting Docker handle all that orchestration. Docker’s new orchestration services — called Machine, Swarm and Compose — will supposedly make it possible for organizations to run and coordinate their containers across multiple clouds, whether they be [company]Amazon[/company], [company]Google[/company], [company]VMware[/company], Digital Ocean and so on and so on.

With Microsoft jumping on board with Docker in announcing the release of the new features, this seems like one more way the Redmond, Washington giant is trying to gain trust from developers who want a service that plays nice with multiple clouds.

Microsoft’s big open-source push the past year was designed to court developers who are hesitant to trust Microsoft due to its once closed nature under its previous regime. By joining forces with developer-favorite Docker, Microsoft is once again trying to make itself more attractive to the development community.

In a second blog post detailing the announcement, Microsoft made sure to list a number of ways its integrating the new Docker orchestration services into Azure. Ross Gardler, Microsoft’s senior technology evangelist of its open technologies, wrote “Today we announced a number of improvements to our Docker support on Azure, most notably Docker Machine support for Azure and Hyper-V and support for Docker Swarm.“

With orchestration services seeming to be the next step for containers to enter the world of production, it’s interesting that Microsoft hasn’t yet come up with its own version of the technology. But, maybe it doesn’t have to as long as it’s working with Docker.

Of course, by not making its own orchestration service and instead relying on the cloud-agnostic Docker, it’s putting its own Azure Cloud at risk, since organizations will be able to use other clouds as well.

In an attempt to further lure developers (Microsoft already has a strong foothold with legacy companies), it might be worth the risk to Microsoft, however. It’s got years to make up for as it tries to distance itself from the Microsoft of the past.