Microsoft Opens Docker to Azure

The open source application packaging platform gets 1.0 support on Microsoft's cloud.

One advantage of Microsoft Open Technolgies, a subsidiary that focuses on open source collaboration with the non-Microsoft world, is that it's not afraid to highlight cool technology, no matter the source. It did just that earlier this week when it upgraded Azure to run Docker hosts.

What is Docker? It's an increasingly popular container engine project. The first milestone was released this week, along with a new program of enterprise support designed to turn the packaging tool into a full-fledged open platform for building, shipping, and running distributed applications. is an open source project focused on creating a means of building, managing, and deploying applications as lightweight, portable, self-sufficient software containers. The project has attracted more than 450 contributors and generated more than a million downloads, the company says. More than 14,000 "Dockerized" applications in are currently listed on the Docker public Registry, and about 7,000 projects now on GitHub have "Docker" in their titles. And big-name companies, from Red Hat to Google, have adopted the technology. Microsoft did its part by "updating the cross-platform command line interface (CLI) tools for Azure and utilizing a feature called Virtual Machine (VM) Extensions," the Open Technologies group said on its blog. 

The release of Docker 1.0 is Docker Inc.'s way of declaring definitively that the 15-month old project is ready for mission-critical workloads, says Scott Johnston, Docker Inc.'s SVP of Products Development.

"What we're saying with this release is that, after just over a year of mainly community-driven innovation -- 95% was not contributed by Docker Inc. -- Docker has gone beyond the developer laptop and the lab," Johnston said. "We're saying that we've got the requirements run to ground, we've stressed it and test it, and now it's ready for the data center."

But it's the combination of the Docker Engine with the new Docker Hub that Johnston's company hopes will take the project to a new level. Docker the Platform merges the packaging engine with a new cloud service for distributed applications, including container image distribution and change management, user and team collaboration, lifecycle workflow automation, and third-party services integration. Together they provide an environment in which developers and sysadmins can build, ship, and run distributed applications.

"Docker as a container engine has been the focus of the conversation over the past year," Johnston said. "But Docker as a platform is much more interesting. We've watched the community and our customers applying this technology to some pretty sophisticated computing problems. Now it literally looks like Docker is a full-on platform."

The platform also includes a new Docker Enterprise Support program, which the company says will provide enterprise IT customers with "the training, expertise, and support necessary to stand-up mission-critical workloads built on the Docker platform."

"We're giving them one throat to choke, 24/7/365," Johnston said.

This initial release of Docker Hub includes an integrated console for managing users, teams, containers, repositories and workflows; the Docker Hub Registry, where more than 14,000 Dockerized apps will be available as "building blocks;" a number of collaboration tools; an automated build service; the Webhooks service for automating repetitive workflows for build pipelines; and the Docker Hub API.

Over the past year, Docker-style container-based virtualization, or "containerization," has become a must have capability, said IDC analyst Al Hilwa. Docker's collaboration with Red Hat, announced in April marked an important milestone, he said, demonstrating that containerization has become suitable for many production environments. "Organizations looking to simplify application deployment and improve operational efficiency and infrastructure utilization should consider standardized containerization approaches such as Docker," he said.

"This is important technology for the evolution of PaaS," Hilwa said. "It is an important way to get standardization at the sub-virtual machine level, allowing portable apps to be packaged in a lightweight fashion and easily and reliably be consumed by PaaS clouds everywhere. The level of ecosystem support Docker has gained is stunning and it speaks to the need for this kind of technology in the market and the value it provides. This ecosystem is a great omen for the future richness of the Docker Hub and the company's business strategy."

Docker CTO and founder Solomon Hykes thanked the contributors to the Docker project in a statement announcing the 1.0 release: "We would like to thank the over 460 contributors to the project – as well as the countless partners, promoters, application publishers and meetup organizers – for helping Docker reach this important milestone. We'd also like to salute the many enterprises that ignored our statements about ‘production readiness' and deployed Docker in prior releases. Your bravery (and unvarnished feedback) has been critical as well."

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].

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