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Docker pledges Kubernetes for Windows support in Docker EE

Docker Enterprise Edition will add Kubernetes for Windows features in the coming months, but Microsoft shops haven't decided on a container orchestration strategy.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Docker Enterprise Edition will support Kubernetes for Windows hosts in the next six months, but Microsoft shops still aren't sure where to look for container support.

Docker and Microsoft have been partners for Windows container support since 2016, and Docker Enterprise Edition (EE) for Windows Server, based on Docker's swarm container orchestrator, is available free to Windows Server 2016 customers. Docker officials here at DockerCon this week previewed Kubernetes for Windows support in Docker Enterprise Edition, which they promised in beta once a more mature upstream Kubernetes release comes out later this year.

"I really want to see progress in this space," said Reece Bradley, enterprise application developer at Farm Credit Services of America, a credit provider to farm and ranch operators, based in Omaha, Neb. "We're right on the cusp of [deploying containers], but we need someone who says, 'You need this, this and this, and we'll help you do it.'"

Farm Credit Services develops apps with Microsoft's Visual Studio Team Services and an Octopus Deploy CI/CD pipeline. Bradley's company sent him to DockerCon to determine whether it should seriously evaluate Docker Enterprise Edition for Windows container support. The company already completed a proof of concept on Docker Enterprise Edition nine months ago, before it added support for Kubernetes. Microsoft has also emphasized Kubernetes support in its Azure container management services in recent months.

"Kubernetes has my attention," Bradley said. "But it's difficult to find anyone with experience in Microsoft, Docker and Kubernetes to champion this project in-house. ... Sometimes it's hard to know even what questions to ask."

Once it adds Kubernetes for Windows support, Docker Enterprise Edition looks like the most likely candidate to span all three of those technical areas of expertise, Bradley said. Still, he's unsure whether Microsoft will throw its weight behind its partnership with Docker for on-premises Kubernetes management or emphasize its own Azure Stack integrated hardware and software appliance.

Docker CPO Scott Johnston presents at DockerCon
Scott Johnston, chief product officer at Docker, unveils Docker Enterprise Edition roadmap plans at DockerCon.

Kubernetes for Windows adds to appeal for Docker EE shops

Liberty Mutual Insurance chose Docker Enterprise Edition based on swarm mode over Kubernetes in 2016 due to easier management for its developers, who were also getting used to Agile project management, DevOps and continuous application delivery as they came up to speed on containers. Now, the company will look to Docker to simplify Kubernetes for Windows as well.

"We originally chose Docker EE as a way to achieve consistency across clouds, with the same APIs we could use on premises and in AWS," said Eric Drobisewski, senior architect at Liberty Mutual, in an interview after his DockerCon presentation. "That drove our initial decision to go with Docker Datacenter [now incorporated into Docker EE], and we'll stick with that to support Kubernetes."

Kubernetes has my attention, but it's difficult to find anyone with experience in Microsoft, Docker and Kubernetes to champion this project in-house.
Reece Bradleyenterprise application developer, Farm Credit Services of America

However, Docker's competitors also have access to the same upstream Kubernetes code. Red Hat put Windows support into beta for its OpenShift Kubernetes management platform in May 2018, and plans to make it generally available within the next month. Mesosphere's DC/OS will be able to follow suit as well.

A .NET developer attendee at DockerCon said he recently evaluated Mesosphere's DC/OS running the Mesos Marathon container scheduler in his company's Microsoft Azure public cloud environment, and said he's more likely to consider Mesosphere DC/OS for third-party Kubernetes support than Docker Enterprise Edition.

"We'd look to Mesosphere for storage management in big data applications like [Apache] Spark, Kafka and Cassandra," said Dennis Tabieros, application developer at Generac Power Systems, a generator manufacturer in Milwaukee. "Otherwise, we'd just stick to the Azure Kubernetes Service."

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