Using a new Linux toolkit developed by Docker, dubbed LinuxKit, Microsoft plans to make available a lightweight Linux subsystem available on Windows and Azure that will allow containers originally developed for Linux systems to run alongside containers developed for Windows.
In addition, Microsoft also announced that IT organizations will be able to isolate those containers by running them on top of a lightweight implementation of a Microsoft Hyper-V virtual machine (VM), versus deploying them on a bare metal server or on an instance of a much larger VM.
Microsoft gained access to LinuxKit via an alliance between the two companies that is now three years old.
Today, Docker also said it is making LinuxKit available as an open source project to make it simpler for organizations to build their own custom lightweight Linux subsystems and hosts. Linux containers are often deployed on lightweight Linux distributions because many of the functions provided by larger Linux distributions are now embedded in the container. That enables IT organizations to deploy much smaller instances of Linux to run containerized applications.
Docker CEO Ben Golub said the ability to run Linux containers on Windows will make it simpler to run heterogeneous applications made up of, for example, a Windows front-end accessing a Linux back-end on the same host.
“You can deploy heterogenous applications without having to worry about where they are running,” said Golub.
Golub noted that pricing for the enterprise edition of Docker is based on a per-node basis per year, so he said Docker doesn’t have a vested interest in where IT organizations ultimately deploy Docker.
To make it simpler to build custom systems using Docker technologies, Docker also announced today Moby Project, an open source project through which Docker is now sharing components, frameworks, and blueprints for assembling container-based systems. Moby makes it simpler to assemble Docker open source code, including Docker Networking, to create a custom system. But Golub said that organizations that build these systems will not be allowed to use the name Docker.
Gary Kinghorn, senior product marketing manager for Nuage Networks, a provider of a software-defined networking (SDN) platform, said he’s dubious there will be many instances of Linux containers running on Windows or Azure in a production environment. IT organizations are more likely to make use of Linux containers on Windows during application development and testing, said Kinghorn.
Kinghorn added that existing legacy applications will need to be networked with container applications both during the application development process and when they get deployed in production. In those instances, IT organizations will need a network overlay to integrate legacy and containerized applications.
“That’s where we add value,” said Kinghorn.
Regardless of the use case, Microsoft appears to be winning converts as it embraces more open source technologies. Silvain Kalache, founder of the Holberton School that specialize in training developers, said that while he builds applications today using Apple Macintosh systems, he’s now considering converting to Windows.
“Microsoft is definitely heading in the right direction,” said Kalache.