Partners Pleased To Finally See Kubernetes Available Natively On Microsoft Azure

Microsoft said it would bulk up Azure's container capabilities by releasing native support on its cloud for the popular Kubernetes container orchestration engine.

For Microsoft partners, the addition of the Google-developed open source cluster orchestrator to Microsoft's Azure Container Service is an integration that gives them more options when building distributed applications for their customers.

The Kubernetes release comes more than six months after Microsoft hired Brendon Burns, formerly a senior Google engineer who spent years leading Kubernetes development, to take charge of the Azure Container Services team.

[Related: Containers And IoT—A Match Made In The Cloud]

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In announcing the update on Microsoft's blog on Tuesday, Saurya Das, program manager for Azure Linux, put the managed Kubernetes offering in the context of advances in cloud computing that increasingly shift focus to applications and away from underlying infrastructure.

"Containers, one of the most topical areas in cloud computing, are the next evolutionary step in virtualization," Das said. "Companies of every size and from all industries are embracing containers to deliver highly available applications with greater agility in the development, test and deployment cycle."

Azure Container Service now incorporates the three major container orchestrators – Docker Swarm is also available, as is Mesos-based DC/OS, from Mesosphere.

The Kubernetes service had been previewed to select customers for several months, during which time Microsoft collected feedback that went into improving the product for general release, Das wrote.

On Wednesday, Microsoft will also release a preview of Kubernetes for Windows Server Containers, a Docker container platform for developing native Windows applications.

For Microsoft partners, the addition of Kubernetes means more architectural choices, and fewer tradeoffs, when using Docker to deploy containerized applications at scale in the cloud, said Sarosh Hussain, practice lead at Credera, a Microsoft partner based in Dallas, Tex.

For that reason, making Kubernetes natively available in Azure, along with the other cluster management frameworks, is a great move on the part of Microsoft, he said.

"Arguably, it is the oldest and most proven of all the cluster management/orchestration platforms," Hussain said, noting that Google has been running Kubernetes in production for more than a decade and the open source community has enhanced the technology since 2014.

Kubernetes within Azure Container Service delivers more flexibility and design options, allowing partners to craft solutions using entirely native tools, he told CRN.

Mike Mason, a technology activist at ThoughtWorks, based in Chicago, told CRN that Kubernetes is "a great technical delivery platform" that will be a boon for developers working within the Azure ecosystem.

"Kubernetes on Azure can be made self-service for teams, reducing friction, and leading to an improved developer experience," Mason said.

As companies compete for talent in a white-hot market, Mason told CRN, platforms like Kubernetes that empower teams to deliver software rapidly are increasingly vital to their business goals.

NetEnrich, an IT services provider headquartered in San Jose, has been busy deploying Docker containers to reduce the footprint of customer applications running in Azure.

But the company had previously focused on deploying the Kubernetes platform on Amazon Web Services, said Chris Joseph, vice president of product management at NetEnrich.

Natively supporting Kubernetes demonstrates a commitment from Microsoft to advancing container adoption among its cloud user base, Joseph told CRN.

With the updates to Azure Container Service, NetEnrich can leverage its expertise in Kubernetes orchestration and service delivery to help its own customers and partners focus on providing reliable and agile services on the Azure Cloud.

"This helps them take a big step forward toward deploying an immutable infrastructure,’ Joseph said.