Can't wait for Docker on Windows? Try Spoon

Spoon app-containerization technology for Windows offers some Docker technology, but with an emphasis on desktop apps

stacked shipping containers
Credit: Tristan Taussac

Those waiting impatiently for Docker's container technology to be available natively in Windows might have to drum their fingers a while longer, given the amount of work still needed to make that happen. In the meantime, other parties are preparing similar, if not inherently compatible, technologies for Windows.

Spoon, creator of an application virtualization system, has released a containerization system for Windows that runs on both desktops and servers. Like Docker, the Spoon technology is equipped with a repository of container images delivering many common desktop or server applications -- Chrome, Firefox, Node.js, Java, the .Net framework -- that can run without other dependencies.

Unlike Docker, though, Spoon doesn't leverage any existing virtualization technologies in Windows -- not even Hyper-V. Instead, Spoon uses its own custom-built virtualization system. One advantage of this approach: It reduces dependencies on the operating system, so containerized apps can run on any version of Windows back to Windows XP.

Also unlike Docker, as a solution aimed at both desktops and servers Spoon can stream containerized applications across the network in the same manner as VMware's ThinApp.

Likewise, legacy XP applications can be crated up and ported forward to Windows 7 or Windows 8, via a "legacy OS emulation mode" feature. Locally installed applications can be scanned to see if they match apps in Spoon's repository, and those apps can be packaged to go with their user settings.

One advantage commonly associated with containers is security, and Spoon professes to offer various granular levels of isolation for containers, including network virtualization. In contrast to Docker, however, Spoon exposes the container to the network by default, but makes it easy for a container to be battened down, then selectively re-exposed to the network. Spoon's creators claim this allows desktop apps to run as they ought to by default.

Some of Spoon's other features hark back to its roots in a streamed-application solution for test deployments and trial software, setting it apart from Docker both in its technology and in the needs it's designed to address. Among them is continuation, the ability to suspend execution of a container on a device, migrate it to another device, and pick up where everything left off. Likewise, Spoon sports the ability to import application packages from ThinApp and convert them into Spoon containers.

Spoon points out other ways in which its architecture differs from Docker. There's no migrating of Docker containers -- not surprising, given that Docker is not native to Windows (yet). But Docker may value Spoon's focus on the desktop after it comes to Windows.

Spoon isn't open source, unlike Docker, but does offer a free tier with unlimited public repositories to get developers up and running. Private and more advanced services start at $19 per month.