Docker goes native for Windows and Mac

Docker for Windows and Docker for Mac incorporate OS virtualization, thus establishing a bridge to true native containers on the platforms

Docker goes native for Windows and Mac
Credit: Thinkstock

For Linux users, Docker has always been a native application, but for Windows and OS X users, not so much.

Docker intends to change that with beta releases of two new editions: Docker for Mac and Docker for Windows.

Both are more than the Docker command-line interface, which has been available for multiple platforms. Rather, they integrate with native virtualization tools on their respective hosts -- the Apple Hypervisor Framework on the Mac and Microsoft Hyper-V on Windows -- so that Docker developers no longer need to rely on a third party to do container work on the platforms.

Initially available in a private beta, Docker for Mac and Docker for Windows are meant to address the fact that working with Docker on the platforms involves setting up first- and third-party tooling. A Linux VM is still required on Mac and Windows, but at least the VM now runs via the tools available on the platforms.

The new Docker apps are also meant to simplify the job of connecting containers within the app to the system and, in turn, the outside world. A built-in DNS server integrated with the host's networking stack provides container discovery services. Volume mounting will simply work; on the Mac, for instance, support for the inotify service within containers "works seamlessly ... for volume-mounted directories."

The premise wasn't simply to put a new skin on existing applications, though Docker says the UIs for these apps can be further detailed. One of Docker's previous acquisitions, Kitematic, produces an attractive GUI front end for the Docker tool set.

Docker for Mac/Windows doesn't yet leverage such a UI, but the plan is to see how it might integrate the tooling further along in the beta cycle. Those who want to use the Kitematic UI with Docker for Mac/Windows can still do so.

The one ingredient still missing is integration with Windows-native containers, which will have to wait until Microsoft delivers the technology in more than a beta preview. For the time being, the Docker native app uses an Alpine Linux image, with the Docker engine pre-installed, as the VM where containers are assembled and executed.

It's clear that Docker isn't going to wait for Microsoft. The plan is to have as much of the Docker tool set running as-is and cross-platform, ready to work with platform-native containers when they arrive on Windows to capture a new container developer market before it formally arrives.

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