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Kubernetes Now Supports Windows Containers In Production

After years of work to incorporate Windows into the Kubernetes project, version 1.14 is a milestone that makes Windows container orchestration stable and ready for widescale enterprise adoption.

Kubernetes took Windows container into production Monday with the latest release of the open source container orchestration platform that has become something close to a standardized infrastructure layer.

After three years of concerted efforts to elevate Microsoft's operating system to a first-class citizen in containerized environments, Kubernetes 1.14 made generally available support of Windows containers running on Windows Server nodes, according to the product’s release team, which oversees the Kubernetes project.

"With v1.14, we're declaring that Windows node support is stable, well-tested, and ready for adoption," Michael Michael, VMware's director of product management who co-chairs SIG-Windows, a special interest group within the larger project, told CRN.

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That's an important milestone, Michael said, because it means the vast ecosystem of Windows-based applications can be deployed on the platform.

It's also a positive development for Docker, which more than any other Kubernetes platform provider has allied with Microsoft and championed extending the technology first associated with Linux to the market's most-ubiquitous operating system.

Kubernetes has become big business for the channel. And given the position Microsoft holds in the corporate data center, the latest Kubernetes release will be a boon for many enterprises adopting container technology, Bradley Brodkin, CEO of HighVail, a Toronto-based Docker partner, told CRN.

"Ultimately, if K8s [Kubernetes] is providing a more-stabile platform for Windows, it adds more credibility to Windows in the data center," Brodkin told CRN.

With the latest release, HighVail customers will finally be able to run production workloads built on .NET and SQL on Kubernetes, he said.

"That is a positive for us as many clients have been asking for it," Brodkin said.

Bringing Windows technology into the Kubernetes fold has been the mission of SIG-Windows. Microsoft and Docker, two key corporate players on that team, have worked hard to mature Kubernetes on Windows, Scott Johnston, Docker's senior vice president for product, told CRN.

Windows container orchestration has been possible over the last year as part of alpha and beta releases of Kubernetes—Docker even demonstrated that capability last June at its DockerCon conference.

But Windows container orchestration hadn't previously matured to the point where it was recommended to run production workloads.

"GA is a label of reliability," Johnston said. "If you want to go mission-critical, production, highly scalable, now the platform is ready to take those kinds of workloads. Now it's ready for enterprises."

The alliance between Docker and Microsoft goes back to 2014—soon after Docker thrust containers into the spotlight with the first release of its Docker engine. The companies formed a partnership "to work exactly on this," Johnston said.

Two years later, Microsoft began bundling Docker's containerization engine into Windows Server 2016. Docker Swarm, the startup's native container orchestration technology that has been knocked to the sidelines by Kubernetes, delivered Windows container orchestration a year later.

Docker, which pioneered the modern container technology at first exclusively dedicated to Linux, has put so much focus on Windows because of the realities of the current infrastructure landscape.

More than three-quarters of servers are running Windows—most serving small and mid-size businesses. Enterprises tend to favor Linux, but most have a mixed environment with Windows components.

"If they've decided to run Kubernetes, they're looking for a standardized way to manage both operating systems," Johnston said.

The latest release finally gives those companies "the tools to manage a Kubernetes stack regardless of whether it's deployed on Linux or Windows," Johnston said. "That brings huge efficiencies to their business."

Michael, the co-chair of SIG-Windows, said developers and DevOps engineers have been looking for a way to manage all their wrkloads on a common interface.

"For Windows operators and developers, this means they can use the same tools and processes to manage their Windows and Linux workloads, taking full advantage of the efficiencies of the cloud-native ecosystem powered by Kubernetes," Michael told CRN.

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