March 24, 2017

In what is certainly a historic day for the Docker container community and perhaps all of IT, Microsoft and Docker Inc. today announced a slew of initiatives built on top of a Docker Engine that is now available on Windows Server 2016.

Announced at the Microsoft Ignite 2016 conference, Docker Engine for Windows Server 2016 can be deployed on a bare metal server, a virtual machine or in the Microsoft Azure public cloud. As part of that initiative, the Docker Datacenter framework for orchestrating and securing containers as well as an instance of Microsoft Operations Management Suite for managing hybrid clouds also soon can be deployed on top of a Docker container hosted on Windows Server 2016.

Microsoft is also adding support for Docker containers to Microsoft Visual Studio along with an instance of Docker for Windows that can be used to develop applications on a local PC. All in all, there are well over 8 million Microsoft.Net developers who will soon be able to develop Docker applications using Visual Studio tools they already know.

Finally, the company has developed an Image2Docker tool that makes it possible to scan an image running on a virtual machine and convert it into a Docker image that can run on Windows Server 2016.

Based on two years of collaborative engineering effort, Microsoft and Docker worked together to rework the Windows kernel to add support for the primitives required to run Docker containers, says Scott Johnson, senior vice president at Docker Inc. A Docker image built for Linux will not run on Windows Server 2016. But Johnston says via Docker Datacenter the average administrator will be able to manage container applications deployed on either platform or on the Azure cloud. Those applications can then tap into Docker Hub application development pipeline to eventually be made available via the Docker Store.

Johnston notes that most Windows administrators do not have the programming skills required to run lower-level container orchestration frameworks. By making Docker Datacenter available on Windows Server 2016, Docker Inc. will be in the unique position of being able to address 63 percent of the enterprise IT market that runs Windows Server as well as the other 35 percent of that market that runs a derivative of Linux. That means Docker Inc. now has access to 98 percent of the available enterprise IT market as part of what Johnston describes as a larger Docker Everywhere strategy.

Microsoft, meanwhile, clearly sees Docker as an opportunity to advance its own hybrid cloud computing ambitions. In addition to being able to move applications between Windows Server 2016 and Microsoft Azure, Microsoft has also been moving to deploy its own stack of middleware technologies on top of instances of Linux running on premise or on the Microsoft Azure cloud.

There’s no doubt that the rise of containers and microservices has been a developer-led phenomenon. Obviously, roughly 8 million Windows developers will provide additional momentum. But on top of that there are now also going to be hundreds of thousands of Windows Server administrators that are about to get their first IT operations taste of managing those containers in production environments.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.