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Microsoft doubles down on Kubernetes with Azure Monitor, AKS

Microsoft's new monitoring tools for AKS and its decision to sunset Azure Container Service trumpet the rise of Kubernetes as the de facto choice for container orchestration.

Microsoft has cemented its commitment to Kubernetes as a standard for container orchestration and added a feature for operations teams that oversee production Kubernetes environments.

Azure Monitor for containers, which is now generally available, builds on Azure Monitor's current capabilities and provides a central place for telemetry associated with Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) clusters. Beyond an overview of cluster health, users can dig into data on individual nodes, controllers and containers.

This, for example, can help diagnose the root cause of a noisy neighbor issue inside a pod that hosts multiple containers, Microsoft said in a blog post. Azure Monitor also provides a live stream of container log data, which enables real-time debugging.

With tools like this, Microsoft recognizes customers' critical factors for container environments, said Stephen Elliot, an analyst with IDC.

"Enterprises who are serious about placing containers into production require production-grade management, monitoring, security and orchestration," Elliot said.

Meanwhile, Kubernetes' emergence as the industry standard for containers means the ad hoc experimental phase is over, and more customers will look to vendors for tools to support bigger Kubernetes environments, said Jay Lyman, an analyst at 451 Research.

"Monitoring Kubernetes deployments and clusters is typically a major pain point for enterprise organizations, mainly because it differs dramatically from existing monitoring tools and experience, particularly when you scale up or go to production," Lyman said.

Monitoring and logging is also one of the most significant segments of the container market based on revenue and share, second only to management and orchestration, he added.

To that end, Azure Monitor for containers is a counterpart to the likes of Google's Stackdriver monitoring capabilities for Kubernetes and Amazon Web Services' App Mesh.

Sunset looms for Azure Container Service

Microsoft also said it will retire Azure Container Service (ACS) by Jan. 31, 2020. After that time, related APIs won't operate, and customers cannot create new containers with ACS. Microsoft said existing ACS clusters should continue to work, but it will be up to customers, not Azure's team, to support them.

Monitoring Kubernetes deployments and clusters is typically a major pain point for enterprise organizations, mainly because it differs dramatically from existing monitoring tools and experience.
Jay Lymananalyst, 451 Research

Microsoft also said it will mothball the acs-engine open source project for unmanaged container orchestrator clusters, and it will be superseded by aks-engine. Clusters that depend on acs-engine will still work, and aks-engine will have backward compatibility with them.

Microsoft introduced ACS in 2015, and it supported Kubernetes in its infancy, as well as alternatives, including Docker. But, now, the company plans to focus on AKS, and it will guide customers to migrate ACS workloads to AKS or other options. Microsoft recommends that ACS customers who use Kubernetes for containers move workloads to AKS and those who couple ACS with Docker adopt Basic or Standard/Advanced Docker Enterprise Edition for Azure. Also, ACS users who chose DC/OS should move to Mesosphere DC/OS Enterprise or DC/OS Open Source.

Some ACS shops may struggle to shift their container environments, which provides an important lesson for IT decision-makers, said Holger Mueller, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, based in Cupertino, Calif. "There's no guarantee that something will run forever because it's in the cloud."

Another question is whether ACS users will have enough time to comfortably make the move or decide to move their container deployments to another IaaS provider's service, he added.

While AWS, Google Cloud Platform and Azure are lead players in containers today, options have proliferated.

A 2016 market forecast from 451 Research identified 125 vendors in the container market. An updated report released this month tracks the total at 184 companies, nearly a 50%increase. It estimated that the container market will be valued at about $2.1 billion in 2019 and rise to more than $4.3 billion by 2022.

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