Docker for Windows Server is a win-win for Microsoft and Docker

Microsoft continues to expand its efforts to work with open source by having Docker run out of the box on Windows Server

Docker for Windows Server is a win-win for Microsoft and Docker

This week Microsoft will unveil the long-awaited Windows Server 2016 at its Ignite conference in Atlanta. With it comes the equally long-awaited Docker for Windows Server -- or perhaps better put, Docker in Windows Server.

Scott Johnston, senior vice president of product at Docker, stated in a phone conversation: "You can say that, conceptually, [Docker] comes 'in the box.'" A one-line PowerShell command is all that's needed to activate the Docker Engine in Windows Server, with enterprise support for Docker included courtesy of Microsoft.

There are two strategies at work: Microsoft is continuing to expand efforts that work with open source throughout its ecosystem, and Docker is striving to make itself indispensable in the enterprise IT world.

Microsoft: New from the inside out

When talk of Docker being ported to Windows first started circulating two years ago, it was clear nothing could happen without major architectural changes deep within the Windows kernel. There were already signs Microsoft was changing, but the biggest was Microsoft altering core functionality in its flagship product to better accommodate an open source project.

By doing this, Microsoft's enterprise customers could use a common toolchain for app deployment across Windows and Linux systems. According to Docker, enterprises use Windows Server and Linux in about a 63/35 mix, and having a common toolchain means there's less incentive to toss over one platform for the other.

It also means the applications developed by enterprises for their Windows Server systems, the kind that could most benefit from being ported to the cloud, can now be Dockerized and readily moved around. Those types of apps -- generally in-house apps written in C# or for the .Net framework -- comprise the majority of the load enterprises have been shifting to the cloud in the beta-test phases of Docker for Windows Server, according to Docker.

Docker: One container, everywhere

Partnering with Microsoft is yet another example of Docker trying to make itself as ubiquitous as possible in enterprise IT. A couple of qualities have helped: The Docker project is open source, so it's easy to obtain and contribute to, and it is written in a language (Google's Go) that allows fast, easy porting across platforms. 

Docker has also been partnering with other companies. Case in point: Earlier this year, HP Enterprise introduced a series of Docker-ready systems as a hardware-level complement to the portfolio of Docker-related products the company unveiled last year. With Docker directly in the box and HPE willing to provide support, there's one fewer excuses for enterprises not to use Docker.

United they stand

Both companies stand to gain. Microsoft is trying to ensure its enterprise customers can use Microsoft's cloud across the board. Apps that can't be moved to Azure will, in the long run, get moved to a competing cloud. Since they might be moved via Docker, why not catch a wave that's already on the rise?

Docker's motive is much the same as any startup: Finding more ways to bring in paying customers. Putting Docker in Windows is a big way to achieve that.

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