Microsoft has developed a Docker-style container technology to run on its Windows Server operating system as it hopes to build on the success of the Docker-based Linux containers.
"We're finding that interest in containers is very high," said Mike Schutz, who runs cloud platform product marketing for Microsoft. Some 20% of Azure users deploy Linux and a significant number of those users run Docker containers, he said.
The Windows Server Container can be used to package an application so it can be easily moved across different servers. It uses a similar approach to Docker's, in that all the containers running on a single server all share the same operating system kernel, making them smaller and more responsive than standard virtual machines.
Unlike Docker, which uses Linux as its core operating system, Windows Server Container will rely on the Windows Server operating system. This will allow organisations to package into containers their applications specifically built to run on Windows Server, and Microsoft's .Net framework.
In addition to the Windows Server Containers, Microsoft will also release a container for applications that require strong security, based on Microsoft's Hyper-V virtual machine. The Hyper-V Container "helps ensure that the code running remains isolated and can't impact the host that it is running on, or the other containers running along besides it."
The Docker software has been criticised for inadequate security. Both Ubuntu and CoreOS have also developed secure container technologies to address these issues.
The new technologies will arrive with the next release of Windows Server, due in 2016. Microsoft will offer a stripped-down version of Windows Server designed only to run containers, called Nano Server, which will take up only about 5% the size on disk compared to a regular copy of Windows Server.
Both Windows Server Containers and Hyper-V Containers can be controlled through the Docker engine, allowing administrators to manage both Docker and Microsoft containers in the same environment.
Since its debut in 2013, Docker has become extremely popular with developers and organisations, and has been downloaded over 100 million times. The software provides a way to package an application along with its dependent libraries so it can be easily and quickly run on any Linux platform. Microsoft was one of the first cloud providers to support Docker with its Azure cloud service, and the technology also quickly found a home in other enterprise focused cloud services from Amazon, Google, IBM, and HP.