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Windows Embraces Docker

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Docker Inc. and Microsoft announced today a partnership to provide Docker support on the next Windows Server release.

Making Windows and Docker work together will come through several joint initiatives:

  • Enabling Windows based containers with a new Docker Engine for Windows Server
  • Extending Docker's open orchestration APIs to the Microsoft ecosystem
  • Integrating DockerHub with Azure's Management Portal and Gallery
  • Providing multi-platform applications support, running both on Linux and Windows Docker containers.

Docker will support both Windows and Linux containers

Running Windows binaries on Docker will require work on several fronts. Microsoft will lead the effort to enable Windows Server containers, adding the equivalent to Linux's namespaces and cgroups. A new, open-sourced, Docker Windows Daemon (counterpart to the Docker Linux Daemon) will be built under the governance of the Docker project. The overall Docker platform will also be adjusted to work with both daemons.

Microsoft's support for Docker's orchestration API's will enable multi-platform containers orchestration. Docker's containers orchestration is seeing rapid change in other fronts. Docker Inc. will preview this quarter work onFig's integration with Docker, following Orchard's acquisition, provisioning and managing of Docker hosts and inter-container networking.

Docker Global Hack Day #2 will have the first demonstration of some of these new capabilities.

Ben Golub, reminded on Docker's announcement the Docker's goal at its inception:

When Docker was launched as an open source project 18 months ago, we had a simple goal: “To build the ‘button’ that enables any application to be built and deployed on any server, anywhere.” Today, we feel we’ve largely succeeded…for a) Linux applications consisting of b) a limited number of Docker containers.

Ben concludes that this partnership "represents a big step to addressing both of these challenges."

Microsoft had already revealed it's commitment to containers and Docker in particular when it announced support for running Docker on Microsoft Azure earlier this year.

The announcement unleashed a torrent of comments on Reddit and Hacker News. Some users expressed their excitement, such as amarraja who commented: "This is hands down the best news I have heard in the MS development space in a long long time". Others, such as SwellJoe, revealed some concern that Microsoft might in the end diverge from Docker's implementation: "I don't know that the fear is warranted today, but 'embrace and extend' was a real problem for a long time".

Nick Stinemates, Head of Business Development & Technical Alliances at Docker, participated in the discussion:

I'm pretty comfortable with the terms that ensure we protect our commitment to Open Source and in ensuring there is no special access given by partners, Microsoft or not. The project is the project, governed under the rules set forth by the community. Even members of Docker, Inc. have to advocate and fight for every change they make, as we do not believe in creating different classes of contribution.

There was also some confused users about the announcement meaning and the possibility of running Linux binaries in Windows containers and vice-versa. For instance, PasswordIsntHAMSTER wrote that the "general feeling I had from the release is that both platforms would be able to indiscriminately run containers targeting either OS.", which is not the case. Again, Nick Stinemates:

There are no current goals to make Linux executables run natively in windows and vice versa.

UnoriginalGuy asked if this initiative was related to Drawbridge, a research project on the containers space. Madhan Ramakrishnan, from the Azure team, replied:

Regarding Drawbridge, [...] it is an internal research project that we have been innovating on, and that has helped us gain valuable experience with containers. Much of what we announced today was born from the experience that we had with Drawbridge.

Nick Stinemates clarified further that a "new, native capability [will be - Ed.] added to Windows proper".

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