November 23, 2017

As part of an effort to eliminate a Kubernetes management tax, Microsoft previewed a managed instance of Kubernetes clusters running on Azure that it will manage on behalf of customers for free.

In addition, the company promised to extend Azure Container Registry to add support for geo-replication capabilities that makes it simpler to manage multiple instances of a private container registry.

Gabe Monroy, program manager for containers on Microsoft Azure, says customers will be required to pay only for the virtual machines they consume when using the Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), currently known as Azure Container Service.

Monroy says it’s increasingly clear that organizations running containers in the cloud would rather focus all their efforts on application development rather than infrastructure management. To provide that option, Microsoft will manage Kubernetes clusters deployed on Azure on their behalf, including all rolling upgrades to Kubernetes clusters.

While Kubernetes has become easier to stand up, Monroy notes that ongoing management of a Kubernetes cluster remains a major challenge. AKS going forward will automate the management of Kubernetes instances running on Azure to provide IT organizations with self-healing capabilities across multiple Kubernetes clusters distributed across all the zones that Microsoft makes available on the Azure cloud, he says.

AKS will be available in basic, standard and premium versions that offer differing levels of performance. But all three instances will make full use of the Kubernetes application programming interface (API) and will be integrated with Microsoft Active Directory (AD) services on Azure.

Microsoft is making a concerted effort to become a primary destination for deploying containers in the cloud. In addition to AKS, Microsoft provides support for running Docker Enterprise Edition (EE) based on an instance of Docker Swarm clusters running on Azure as well. Docker last week also announced that it has natively integrated Kubernetes in Docker EE as an alternative to Swarm clusters.

In general, Microsoft is contending that managing distributed infrastructure is still too difficult for the average IT organization, and is making a case for relying on a cloud service provider to accomplish that goal. At the same time, however, Microsoft has made it clear that Docker containers are at the heart of a hybrid cloud computing strategy based on microservices that will span everything from the cloud to the network edge.

With its actions, Microsoft is gearing up for a fight with rivals such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google for dominance over container workloads that will be deployed on both Windows and Linux platforms. Microsoft retooled both Azure and Windows Server to run Docker containers. Most containers today run on Linux platforms. But as more Windows developers discover the flexibility provided by microservices based on containers, Microsoft’s traditional base of IT organizations increasingly will embrace containers as matter of survival rather than simply developer preference.

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.