Microsoft Azure makes nice with Google to get a piece of Docker

Microsoft Azure digs deeper into Docker, with visual tool and Kubernetes support for containers

It's been surprising and heartening to see Microsoft get behind both Docker and Kubernetes, the Google-created Docker container management project. Microsoft's latest announcements about using Docker on Azure show it's getting serious about Docker, even if only for the sake of Linux machines in Azure.

First up: Microsoft is allowing the use of Kubernetes to manage Docker containers on Azure. Several key features of Kubernetes now have Azure support, according to a Microsoft blog post: "Build a container and publish it to Azure Storage; deploy an Azure cluster using container images from Azure Storage or the Docker Hub; configure an Azure cluster; update the Kubernetes application on an existing cluster; tear down an Azure cluster."

The details of the deployment features are particularly intriguing; Microsoft is allowing deployment not only from Azure Storage, but from Docker's own repository of containers. That's a splendid idea, since many folks already knee-deep in Docker have most likely been using Docker Hub, not Azure, to store and build their containers.

Second, Microsoft is making Docker containers and Kubernetes clusters easier to work with for newbies. To that end, Microsoft has built -- and released as open source under the Apache license -- the Kubernetes Visualizer. Written to run under Node.js, it will "[provide] helpful visual representations of what is happening on your cluster," according to Microsoft. "Furthermore, users can edit the automatically generated files and watch as Kubernetes updates the cluster configuration."

Another blog post, with screenshots to show the app in operation, talks about how well the project scaled, with 200 "pods" -- applications running on a single Kubernetes cluster node -- for the Nginx Web server running side by side on different machines. Spinning up the same application multiple times, Microsoft noted, happens much more quickly after the first instance of an app, since the container image used to start it is cached for reuse.

Wes Miller, analyst for Directions on Microsoft, said in an email that this set of features "shows Microsoft's ability to rapidly evolve to meet competitive pressures -- in this case from Google -- and to ensure that customers have the tools they require from in Azure, regardless of the underlying platform." In the same vein, Docker has been happy with Google's validation of its importance via Kubernetes, but still wanted to see Kubernetes expand beyond being Google's project. Microsoft is one of several entities making that happen.

One question that always surfaces whenever Docker and Microsoft are mentioned in the same breath is whether the latter is working to have an incarnation of the former on Windows, rather than merely on Linux machines running in Azure. Theoretically, it's possible, though neither Microsoft nor Docker has admitted to having a project in the works. If it happens, it's likely to come about only after Microsoft has plenty of experience working with Docker on Azure, which appears to be more of a reality with each passing month.

This story, "Microsoft Azure makes nice with Google to get a piece of Docker," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.