Microsoft took the opportunity at its Ignite conference Monday to announce the launch of Windows Server 2016, as well as System Center 2016 and Technical Preview 2 of its long-awaited Azure Stack hybrid cloud system.
At the launch yesterday, Microsoft said it’s releasing an evaluation edition of the release to manufacturing (RTM) version of Windows Server 2016. The evaluation version can be downloaded now, with the full release expected to come available by the middle of October 2016, company officials said.
Windows Server 2016 comes with a ton of new features, including improved networking and security tools, as well as enhanced support for clustering. However the two headline acts are the addition of the new Nano Server option, which is a stripped-down version of Windows Server designed for use in the cloud, and built-in, commercial support for Docker containers.
The last one comes as a surprise, even though Microsoft had previously announced it would be using the Docker Engine for managing containers on Windows Server 2016. Microsoft said at the conference its making Docker Engine available to all Windows Server 2016 at no extra cost, with Microsoft itself handling most of the basic support and Docker Inc. taking charge when more complicated issues arise.
Doubling down on Docker
Microsoft’s enormous installed Windows base is seen as a key market for application containers, which until recently have largely been used in Linux environments. But Windows Server dominates a sizeable chunk of the x86-based server market, which means it simply cannot be ignored. The collaboration between Docker and Microsoft means the Docker Engine is now compatible with Windows, Linux and hybrid workloads. And for Docker, it effectively gets to double its addressable market.
As part of the execution strategy, Microsoft and Docker are to promote a Docker Datacenter platform that’s designed to “secure the Windows Server software supply chain and manage containerized Windows Server workloads” in the cloud, on-premises or in hybrid setups.
In a blog post, Docker COO Scott Johnston said the collaboration means users can access a “single platform for both Windows and Linux applications on any infrastructure, whether bare metal, virtualized, or cloud.”
Under the new partnership, Microsoft will also contribute Windows Server container base images and applications to Docker Hub. The partnership also means that Docker containers and other Linux projects are now available on Microsoft’s Azure cloud, giving the company a new platform to deliver distributed applications and other microservices to willing enterprises.
On stage, the partners said Docker on Windows Server would help to enable the transition of legacy applications to a next-generation platform that would speed up delivery and make it easier to migrate workloads to the cloud. Those interested can read in greater detail about how Docker works with Windows Server 2016 in this blog post by Docker’s Product Manager Michael Frills
System Center & Azure Stack
Microsoft also announced System Center 2016, which will be made generally available in October. System Center is Microsoft’s service for managing data centers and provisioning and managing hardware and virtual machines, and a preview copy can be downloaded from here.
Last but not least, Microsoft talked about the immediate release of Azure Stack Technical Preview 2, and promised to provide more details later this week at Ignite. Azure Stack is an operating system based on Windows Server that’s able to interface with the Azure Cloud. Microsoft recently announced a change of plans for the service, saying it plans to bundle it with servers made by Dell Technologies Inc., Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Co. (HPE), and Lenovo Group Ltd., having first announced it would be compatible with any hardware.
Microsoft said Azure Stack Technical Preview 2 will reflect many of the under-the-hood changes Microsoft has made since releasing Azure Stack Technical Preview 1 last January, with new foundational services such as Azure Queue storage for application messaging, App Service and Azure Key Vault for keeping apps secure.