Microsoft Expands Its Container Support With Hyper-V Containers And Stripped-Down Server OS

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Microsoft doesn’t want to get left behind as containers quickly change how developers write and deploy applications. Last October, the company announced that it would support Docker containers with the next release of Windows Server. Today, it announced a new hypervisor for running containers safely on Windows Server and a new stripped-down, minimal-footprint install option for Windows Server that is optimized for the cloud and containers.

As Mike Schutz, Microsoft’s general manager for cloud platform marketing told me, Microsoft is seeing increasing demand from its customers for container technologies. He also stressed that Microsoft is making good progress in adding Docker support to its platforms, including Azure and Windows Server.

Today’s announcements build on Microsoft’s October 2014 commitment to bring Docker support to Windows Server and its announcement of Windows Server Containers, its technology for packaging up and running applications in containers that were written with .NET and other Windows technologies.

Schutz said the new Hyper-V Containers add a new dimension to container deployments on Windows Server by adding a layer of virtualization that provides additional security features and isolation between containers and the operating system — all while working with existing Docker tools.

“One thing we’ve identified as developers to expand the benefits of containers to a broader set of applications is that there are new requirements emerging,” Schutz said. These include better isolation, but also a “desire to have a little bit more control.”

Hyper-V Containers aim to offer exactly that, especially in the large corporations where, as Microsoft points out, “heightened levels of trust may be required for enterprise systems or in hosted environments.”

Applications for Windows Server Containers can be deployed into these new Hyper-V containers without modifications.

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The new Nano Server, which Schutz says has a footprint that measures about 1/20th of the full Windows Server, fits right into this interest in containers, though it can also be used as a stand-alone operating system on lightweight cloud server. With Server Core, Microsoft has long offered a minimal install option for Windows Server without the graphical interface. Nano Server takes this concept even further and adds a focus on cloud deployments that makes it suitable as a thin, bare-metal hypervisor, for example.

Nano Server, it’s worth pointing out, will be an install option for the next version of Windows Server, so it will likely have the same servicing and pricing model, but Microsoft isn’t ready to make any official announcements around this yet. Chances are, the company will have more to announce at its Build developer conference later this month, and the company promises to release a preview of Nano Server next month.

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