Containers are growing up

Microsoft’s purchase of Deis shows that as container runtimes standardize, the real value is higher up the stack

Microsoft Deis Container Kubernetes
Credit: Thinkstock

Microsoft made a splash in the application container market this week with its purchase of Deis, a company that helps customers manage clusters of containers.

The move is significant for a number of reasons. First of all, it shows Microsoft’s commitment to supporting Linux containers and specifically its willingness to invest in making it easier for customers of its Azure cloud platform to use containers at scale. Microsoft is also seemingly giving customers multiple options in how they can use and manage containers in the Azure cloud. Choice for end users is always a good thing.

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But there’s another reason this move is significant. It shows that the lower level container runtimes are becoming standardized. Moves like this purchase reinforce that the real value and action in the container market is now higher up in the stack in container management.

For background, the container market can be broken up into two basic categories: the low-level container runtime is the sort of basic building block of any container that dictates how the container will be defined; then there are higher level management tools that help orchestrate large deployments of containers.

Just about a year ago there was lots of talk in the market about different container runtimes. Docker had one, then CoreOS developed its own named rckt; Ubuntu has one named LXC too. Then a shift happened when the Open Container Initiative (OCI) was founded in late 2015. It basically created an agreed-upon container runtime standard. Now that the market is pretty much on the same page related to container runtimes, the focus has shifted to management of containers.

That’s where Microsoft’s Deis buy comes in. Deis is a container management platform based on the open source Kubernetes platform, which itself could be on its way to becoming a standard in container orchestration. Many companies, from Red Hat to Amazon Web Services to IBM are offering tools for helping customers manage clusters of containers.

And that’s a big step forward from a couple years ago when the market was still trying to figure out what container runtime everyone would use.

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