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Microsoft Announced Nano Server and a Home Grown Container Technology
It's been quite a number of months since Microsoft first announced its partnership with Docker, the company behind the widely popular open source Docker container platform.  At the time, the announcement described a partnership that ensured Docker containers would be able to operate on Linux-based virtual machines in a Microsoft Azure public cloud, and also support Docker's open orchestration APIs and Docker Hub images.  The pair followed up that announcement with another partnership that ensured Docker containers would be able to run in Windows Server environments.

Fast forward and the Redmond giant now finds itself back in the container news stream with an equally interesting announcement... but this time, not about Docker but rather its own container platform dubbed Hyper-V Containers.  The introduction of Hyper-V Containers comes just weeks ahead of Microsoft's plans to debut the preview of its next version of Windows Server, currently code-named "v.Next."

If you aren't yet familiar with containers, they are a lightweight run-time environment with many of the core components of a virtual machine and isolated services of an operating system, designed to package and execute micro-services.

Application developers and administrators are naturally gravitating towards container technologies because of its differentiated approach to deploying applications from that of its older sibling, the traditional hypervisor such as VMware ESX or Microsoft Hyper-V.  Comparatively, container technologies are much more lean and efficient as they don't require the added baggage of having to travel with its own copy of a guest operating system.

With the introduction of its own Hyper-V Container support, Mike Neil, general manager for Microsoft Windows Server, said his company "will now offer containers with a new level of isolation previously reserved only for fully dedicated physical or virtual machines, while maintaining an agile and efficient experience with full Docker cross-platform integration. Through this new first-of-its-kind offering, Hyper-V Containers will ensure code running in one container remains isolated and cannot impact the host operating system or other containers running on the same host."

Neil also mentioned that Hyper-V containers will support the same development and management tools as those designed for Windows Server Containers; and he added, developers won't need to modify applications built for Windows Server Containers in order to run in Hyper-V Containers.

In support of its new containerized application vision, Microsoft also unveiled a new lightweight operating system dubbed Nano Server.  

Neil described the stripped down operating system as "a minimal footprint installation option of Windows Server that is highly optimized for the cloud, including containers."

He went on to say, "Nano Server provides just the components you need -- nothing else, meaning smaller server images, which reduces deployment times, decreases network bandwidth consumption, and improves uptime and security. This small footprint makes Nano Server an ideal complement for Windows Server Containers and Hyper-V Containers, as well as other cloud-optimized scenarios."

This new technology from Microsoft is really groundbreaking, and it follows an emerging trend already seen by the likes of Red Hat Atomic Host and CoreOS.  But the industry hasn't witnessed a thin Windows operating system quite like this before; and the small footprint combined with containers should greatly improve security.  

In the coming weeks, Microsoft will be making a preview of the technology available.  And a more detailed look at both technologies will also be forthcoming at the company's Build conference taking place in San Francisco at the end of the month.

Published Monday, April 13, 2015 6:35 AM by David Marshall
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