Microsoft launches Azure Container Service, minus Kubernetes

Microsoft's containers-as-a-service system on Azure has thrown open its doors to all users, but for now, it's Mesosphere DCOS and Docker Swarm only

Microsoft launches Azure Container Service, minus Kubernetes
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Azure Container Service, Microsoft's system for managing containers at scale on their cloud, officially goes live today.

The biggest news : It doesn't yet support Google's Kubernetes container orchestration system. Instead, ACS works with Mesosphere DCOS and Docker Swarm.

Beginners and experts both welcome

Microsoft wants ACS to serve two markets. First is those who have already deployed containers at scale and want the least amount of hassle getting them to work in Azure. 

"Many companies are looking at containers," said Mark Russinovich, CTO for Microsoft Azure, "and everyone's looking at microservices to figure out how to get more agile. One of the things they run into is is how to manage containers at any kind of scale."

That category of customers, Microsoft found, largely ran Mesosphere DCOS or Docker Swarm as their orchestration framework. Thus, it made sense to build support for them directly into ACS.

The other category is people who are new to container infrastructure and want as few steps as possible before they can get systems spun up and running. For them, Microsoft is trying to make the ACS setup process a matter of clicking through a wizard.

Aside from speed, "it's [also] about giving the customer choice and flexibility around which container management solution they want to use," said Russinovich. "It's about basing the container service around 100 percent open source technologies, which gives them a hybrid capability -- they can run the container applications wherever they want to."

Coming soon: Kubernetes?

But if this is about choice, why omit Google's Kubernetes, one of the most widely used container orchestration systems? Was it a by-product of the perennial rivalries between the two cloud giants?

That decision was a matter of pragmatism and prioritization, according to Russinovich. Microsoft's customers were mainly using DCOS and Docker Swarm in production, and they were eyeing how larger companies built major infrastructure around tools like DCOS.

Russinovich isn't pre-emptively ruling out Kubernetes support. Kubernetes is supported by Microsoft on Azure -- albeit not in the containers-as-a-service portion -- so the technical challenges are not the main issue. Rather, it's a question of the best fit for the current audience: "We're always looking to our customers and what they're asking us to do," Russinovich said.

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