April 28, 2017

Microsoft has delivered a series of updates on its microservices strategy spanning everything from a managed Azure Container Service (ACS) to Azure Functions that drive a serverless instance of the Microsoft cloud platform.

The company announced a series of updates to the Azure Container Service (ACS), including tighter integration with version 1.4 of the Kubernetes container orchestration framework as well as version of 1.8.4 of the Data Center Operating System (DC/OS). At the same time, it previewed an Azure Container Registry, where developers now can store Docker images on Azure, and revealed it is making the ACS Engine source code available on Github as an open-source project.

At the Connect 2016 conference this month, Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of the Cloud and Enterprise Group, said Azure Container Service is the only managed cloud service that supports Kubernetes, Docker Swarm from Docker Inc. and the Mesos container orchestration engine on which DC/OS is based.

There also now is an Azure App Service on Linux with support for containers available in preview that allows developers to bring their Docker images to run natively on an instance of Linux supporting Node.js and PHP stacks.

Finally, Microsoft promised that all the container functionality being made available on the Azure cloud would also find its way into the Azure Stack private cloud platform for on-premises IT environments, which the company plans to deliver via its OEM hardware partners.

Microsoft, in effect, is making the case that developers should embrace a range of Visual Studio tools running on Windows and Macs to build and deploy Docker containers running on either Linux or the full or lightweight run-time implementation of Microsoft.Net that can be deployed on Linux, Windows or Azure.

At the other end of microservices spectrum, however, the company made Azure Functions generally available as a serverless computing alternative for building microservices on an instance of Azure that will automatically scale IT infrastructure resources as needed.

Microsoft is embracing Docker containers as part of larger effort to move beyond its core Windows franchise. To that end, it is making available application development tools for Macs and Windows platforms under a common Visual Studio brand, while also making core database server platforms such as SQL Server available on Linux and Linux-based Docker containers and Windows running on-premises or in Azure. That Azure cloud also now provides access to a range of other open-source database alternatives.

To further illustrate its commitment to open source, Microsoft also announced it is now a platinum member of The Linux Foundation.

Put it together and it’s becoming apparent that Microsoft needs to avail itself of open-source innovations that are now coming at a faster rate than it can compete with on its own. For example, the company noted there are now 18,000 developers working on Microsoft.Net core alone. Couple that with innovations such as Docker containers that were created on Linux, and it’s clear it wants to both lower its own engineering costs and keep pace with any IT innovation that might come out of the open-source community. The only real difference ultimately will come down to which vendor can provide the best total DevOps experience across all platforms.

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.