Docker and Mesosphere power Microsoft's new Azure service

Microsoft's container service leverages two key open source technologies, further evidence of open source's growing role in building Azure

Microsoft taps Docker and Mesosphere to power new Azure service

If there were any lingering doubts about Microsoft making open source a core part of its business, they've been demolished.

Today at AzureCon, Microsoft revealed its new Azure Container Service, powered by two key open source technologies: Docker and Apache Mesos, by way of the Mesosphere DCOS data center management system.

Azure until now have been built exclusively with Microsoft-proprietary pieces, mainly the Azure Service Fabric that will extend Microsoft's cloud into users' data centers. There have been some open source pieces, but they were only for internal use, in the same way that Microsoft built the Linux-based network switch to use in Azure.

But Azure Container Service is different and offers the broadest hint yet that Microsoft wants to build real products with open source, not merely leverage it where it's convenient.

Azure, at your (container) service

The mission of Azure Container Service, according to Microsoft, is to allow organizations "to easily deploy and configure a Mesos container cluster to manage and scale Dockerized applications across multiple virtual hosts." Only Linux containers will be supported when the service debuts in preview later this year, although support for Windows Server containers will be added in 2016.

It's unrealistic to expect Microsoft will supplant all of Azure's components with open source. The more likely scenario, based on what's being done with Azure Container Service, is that Microsoft will build key pieces of infrastructure with open source and use its proprietary creations to envelope, manage, and commodify them.

Microsoft's Mike Schutz, general manager of Cloud Platform, detailed how Azure Container Service is governed by the rest of Azure. "We use Azure Resource Manager and Azure Scale Sets to scale out the virtual machines," he explained. "But the Mesos orchestration engine is what's doing the placement, orchestration, and provisioning of the Dockerized containers themselves." The implication: A customer can use DCOS or Azure's meta-management tools as they see fit.

Coming soon: Even more Mesosphere on Microsoft

The folks at Mesosphere have stated their interest in making DCOS more Windows- and Azure-centric. Along with adding Mesos support to Windows, Ben Hindman and Matt Trifiro of Mesosphere cited several other projects, from integration of the DCOS command line (one of the most hyped features) to the possibility of "push-button deploy from Visual Studio to Azure via the Azure Container Service."

"We see a convergence path, where Azure Container Service will be able to use a lot of our DCOS Enterprise Edition features that we believe will be valuable to Microsoft customers," according to Mesosphere.

It's possible that once enough features from products like Mesos are available in Windows, Microsoft might make the open source parts of Azure proprietary again for homogeneity. But that would deprive Microsoft of the community of developers that has been one of the upsides of leveraging open source in the first place, and which Microsoft is only beginning to put to good use.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.