Microsoft Expands Container Support with Stripped-Down Server OS

April 10, 2015
By: Joe Rizzo

As technology evolves and continues to move forward all the supporting pieces need to do the same or they will fall by the wayside. Microsoft (News - Alert) is one company that does not want to get left behind. Cloud services, hosted solutions and mobile computing all require lots of hardware with a lot of servers. In this scenario, containers emerge as the preferred method to run all of this equipment.

Linux Containers (LXC) is an operating-system level virtualization environment for running multiple isolated Linux systems or containers on a single Linux control host. The Linux kernel provides functionality that allows limitation and prioritization of resources such as CPU, memory, block I/O and network, without the need for starting any virtual machines.

Since Windows functions quite differently from Linux and as we have seen, containers provide a better way of running cloud services, Microsoft needed to make some changes or get left behind. Last year in October, Microsoft announced that it would support Docker containers in the next release of Windows Server and the introduction of Windows Server Containers. Just a few days ago the company announced a new stripped-down, minimal-footprint install option for Windows Server that is optimized for the cloud and containers.

Image via Shutterstock

This new stripped-down version of Windows Server will be known as Nano Server, a rather appropriate name. In a press release, Microsoft said "To achieve these benefits, we removed the GUI stack, 32 bit support (WOW64), MSI (News - Alert) and a number of default Server Core components. There is no local logon or Remote Desktop support. All management is performed remotely via WMI and PowerShell. We are also adding Windows Server Roles and Features using Features on Demand and DISM. We are improving remote manageability via PowerShell with Desired State Configuration as well as remote file transfer, remote script authoring and remote debugging. We are working on a set of new Web-based management tools to replace local inbox management tools."

In addition to Nano Server’s release, which is expected to happen sometime in 2016, a second announcement from Microsoft was that it would also introduce a new hypervisor for running containers safely on Windows Server. Mike Schutz, who is Microsoft’s general manager for cloud platform marketing, said “Hyper-V Containers add a new dimension to container deployments on Windows Server by adding a layer of virtualization that provides additional security features and isolation between containers and the operating system — all while working with existing Docker tools. One thing we’ve identified, as developers to expand the benefits of containers to a broader set of applications, is that there are new requirements emerging. These include better isolation, but also a desire to have a little bit more control.”

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino