Recently at the Microsoft Ignite conference in Atlanta, Microsoft and Docker took their alliance to a new level. The two announced a commercial partnership that makes the Commercially Supported (CS) Docker Engine and Docker Datacenter available to Windows Server 2016 customers.
Combining one of the dominant cloud platforms and technology providers with the de facto leader of the rapidly expanding world of containers has a lot of potential benefits for all parties. I had a chance to chat with Docker COO Scott Johnston to get his thoughts on some of the implications of the partnership and the announcements from Ignite.
Tony Bradley: What benefits does Docker bring to the table for Microsoft customers who may be relatively new to the world of containers or DevOps?
Johnston: There are two primary benefits. First, increase application release frequency. Building Windows apps as Docker containers gives customers a reproducible, portable build artifact that eliminates the “works on my machine” finger-pointing that can occur between developers or between development and operations. Customers report increasing their app release frequency by 13 times when using Docker versus before.
Second, resource optimization. Docker containers encapsulate only the application and its dependencies. This is much smaller unit of deployment than a traditional guest VM, which contains an app and its dependencies as well as a copy of the operating system. As a result, Docker containerized apps start faster, and approximately five to 10 times the number of apps—once Dockerized—can fit on the same infrastructure as before without Docker.
Bradley: How do Docker containers coexist or integrate with Windows containers or Hyper-V containers?
Johnston: Docker containers and Windows and Hyper-V containers one and the same—they’re synonymous. Specifically, customers use the Docker Engine to build Docker Windows images that run as Windows containers or Hyper-V containers using primitives in the Windows Server kernel.
Bradley: Security is a key consideration, especially for larger enterprise customers looking to move to containers. How are Microsoft and Docker addressing the issue of security?
Johnston: Hyper-V containers are a great example of how the companies are working together on security. Specifically, Hyper-V containers are a deploy-time option for IT pros that are completely independent of the developer’s workflow. The developer creates a Docker Windows image without having to consider whether it will be deployed as a Windows container or Hyper-V container.
Then, at deploy-time, the IT pro sets a command line switch that determines whether the image runs as a Windows Server or Hyper-V container. If the Hyper-V option is selected, the Hyper-V container sets up behind-the-scenes a Hyper-V isolation layer around the container, and gives that container a dedicated Windows Server kernel. The Hyper-V isolation and dedicated Windows Server kernel give users an increased security profile for multitenant use cases.
Bradley: Docker is already a de facto leader in the container space, but Microsoft and Windows Server represent a significant market opportunity. What significance or impact does this relationship have for Docker?
Johnston: As you say, Docker is already the de facto leader, so this announcement is both validating and reinforcing that leadership. As far as market potential, since more than 60 percent of x86 servers worldwide are running Windows Server, bringing Docker to Windows more than doubles the market opportunity for Docker and its 450-plus ecosystem partners.
Bradley: What are the key benefits of Docker Datacenter that Microsoft customers should be aware of?
Johnston: Docker Datacenter (DDC) adds key container management benefits for Microsoft IT pros, including the following:
1. Securing the Windows software supply chain. Specifically, DDC enables IT pros to manage security of the Docker Windows images and where they run through digital signature validation and policy enforcement.
2. Application lifecycle management. Specifically, DDC gives IT pros the tooling to deploy and manage Docker Windows images to on-prem data centers, clouds such as Azure and hybrid environments of both.
As Johnston points out, a majority of x86 servers around the world are running some version of Windows Server. At the same time, companies that have built infrastructures around Microsoft technologies want—and need—the tools and platforms to be able to take advantage of DevOps and containers. The partnership between Microsoft and Docker seems like a win-win for customers and partners of both companies.