Microsoft Windows Container Technology Unveiled
Microsoft released the third technical preview of Windows Server 2016 yesterday, with an exciting new feature – Windows container support. This article explains the function and nature of containers, how they’re commonly used, and why they’re so important for applications in the cloud.
With virtualization, we can create virtual (rather than actual) versions of underlying hardware, allowing us to run multiple applications at the same time. Containers are a form of operating system virtualization that give the appearance of a separate, independent OS – that way, the applications you run in that OS behave as though they each have full access to their own copy of the OS. Basically, what containers do for OS is similar to what virtual machines do for hardware.
There are numerous advantages of using container technology. For instance, containers consume very little memory or CPU cycles. Contrasted with approaches that require a full OS copy for each instance, containers are a highly efficient use of your system resources. Furthermore, containers require less management, as there is only a single OS to patch and update. Once you patch or update and restart the system, those changes automatically apply to all containers. With hypervisor-based virtualization, however, each OS instance needs to be patched and updated separately as though they existed on separate physical servers.
Many companies have begun adopting container technology at an impressive rate. One of the most popular container technologies is Docker, an open source project initially released in 2013. It uses the Linux kernel’s resource isolation abilities to run independence containers inside a single instance. Though Docker containers are built on facilities provided by the Linux kernel, proprietary software companies have begun adopting the technology, as well. For example, Microsoft has announced that it will bring Docker container technology (along with its own Windows Server Containers) to Windows Server 2016.
Just like other container technologies, Microsoft’s Windows containers will allow you to run applications isolated from the rest of your OS environment, and can be managed using PowerShell or the Docker container-deployment client. The company also announced upcoming Hyper-V containers that will be available in a future preview.