Microsoft Embraces Docker—And Its Own Resurrection


Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

For the SoMa hipsters, Docker may have just become a little less cool. But for the rest of the industry, Docker just hit the big time.

Docker is the hot “container” technology that promises to revolutionize application development by making it possible to run the same app across a variety of server hardware and operating systems. It was restricted to Linux-based applications—that is, until now. 

See also: What Is Docker And Why Does It Matter?

On Wednesday, Docker and Microsoft announced collaboration to extend Docker’s container technology to Windows. As hype-worthy as Docker has been for the Linux crowd, extending its benefits to Windows will take it to the mainstream, beyond the hipster early adopters and into a far bigger swath of computing. 

What’s The Big Deal?

Docker and Microsoft jointly announced the following today:

  • Extending Docker to Windows with Docker Engine for Windows Server
  • Microsoft’s support of Docker’s open orchestration APIs
  • Integration of Docker Hub with Microsoft Azure
  • Collaboration on the multi-Docker container model, including support for applications consisting of both Linux and Windows Docker containers

Microsoft has had its own container technology for Windows, called Drawbridge, but it goes about containerization in a different way, as Microsoft Azure CTO Mark Russinovich notes:

They’re similar but obviously Docker is built on Linux containers, which is Linux technology and they’re insecure — those containers. Drawbridge is a Windows container technology, it’s internal, it’s not public and it is secure.

It’s also not nearly as popular as Docker. In the new Microsoft world, that means the company is partnering to bring Docker to its developers, rather than doggedly forcing its users into a path they don’t want. (Windows Phone, anyone?)

What Would Docker Do?

Of course, not everyone is a fan. DevOps consultant Kris Buytaert, for example, worries about the effect Docker is having on the relationship between developers and operations professionals:

Open source advocate Jeff Waugh, for his part, doesn’t feel that the partnership is either game-changing or yawn-worthy, but rather an “incremental” advance for Docker. He’s probably right, as this doesn’t introduce new capabilities, per se. Rather, it opens up Docker to a massive developer population that has had second-class status ever since Linux and open source became ascendant.

Competitors, meanwhile, can’t love this news. As much as VMware may want to pretend to a love of all-things-Docker, touting a peanut-butter-and-jelly “better together” message, the reality is that Docker is a long-term threat to traditional virtualization technologies. Having its frenemy, Microsoft, cozy up to Docker can’t be making VMware executives happy.

Microsoft: What, Me Worry?

But let’s be clear: Docker is also a threat to Microsoft, both at the virtualization level but also to its traditional licensing model, as discussed in the thread following CloudFoundry executive James Watters’ criticism that Microsoft has put the cart before the horse with Docker:

Marco Abis rightly responds, “Microsoft liked the move to virtualisation [because] it means even more Win[dows] licenses per machine. Not so with containers.”

Microsoft has time to figure this out, as the announcement applies to Docker running on the next version of Windows, which won’t be out for years. 

Even so, this move, more than any other I’ve seen recently, suggests a very new Microsoft, one that is willing to embrace technology that threatens its traditional businesses as it plays the long game in the Azure cloud. 

See also: In The Cloud, Microsoft Looks Like A Winner Again

In short, as important as this news is for Docker, it’s even bigger for Microsoft. It suggests that cloud is in control at the desktop and server software giant. Which, in turn, is ample evidence that Microsoft is well on its way to resurrection.

Lead image courtesy of Microsoft

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