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Microsoft Adds (Partially) Managed Kubernetes to Azure Container Service

... which is a big deal given its close relationship with Docker, a Kubernetes frenemy

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Managed Kubernetes is now available on Microsoft's Azure cloud, making it easier than ever to deploy Docker containers and manage them with Kubernetes on Azure.

The new managed Kubernetes service, which Microsoft announced last week, does not mark the first time that Kubernetes is available on Azure.

Kubernetes has long been one orchestration option on Azure Container Service, the Containers-as-a-Service (CaaS) service for the Azure cloud.

Azure Container Service has also supported Swarm and Mesos as other orchestration choices.

From Kubernetes to Managed Kubernetes

However, Microsoft is now making it much easier to use Kubernetes to orchestrate Docker containers by offering a managed implementation of Kubernetes on Azure.

Azure customers no longer have to set up and manage Kubernetes themselves. Microsoft will do much of that work for them.

What Does Managed Kubernetes Actually Mean?

Of course, the definition of managed is in the eye of the beholder.

What Microsoft is calling managed Kubernetes doesn't amount to a fully managed, totally hands-off Kubernetes experience from the user's perspective.

Azure Container Service users still have to do some setup in order to take advantage of managed Kubernetes.

(Opportunities for MSPs to offer fully managed Kubernetes therefore remain ripe, as I've written before.)

However, the new managed Kubernetes offering on Azure provides a new interface and automated management of some tasks, such as upgrades.

It significantly reduces the amount of work required on the part of users to create and manage a Kubernetes cluster on Azure.

Azure Container Service is Now Kubernetes-Centric

Microsoft's managed Kubernetes offering, which currently remains a "preview," does more than just add new features to Azure Container Service.

It also marks a full rebranding of Azure Container Service, which is now Kubernetes centric.

In fact, Microsoft is going so far as to change the acronym for Azure Container Service from ACS (the traditional abbreviation) to AKS -- with the K standing for Kubernetes.

In that sense, Microsoft is taking a swipe at Google, whose own cloud-based CaaS, Google Container Engine, is abbreviated as GKE in honor of Kubernetes.

Does Microsoft Still Love Docker?

From a market perspective, Microsoft's wholehearted embrace of managed Kubernetes on the Azure cloud is interesting because Microsoft has traditionally been a close partner of Docker.

Docker's preferred orchestrator is Swarm, which is developed by Docker itself.

Kubernetes, while open source and community-developed, is associated more closely with Microsoft's competitors, like Google and Red Hat.

Microsoft's move makes sense, however.

Kubernetes has cornered the container market, with Mesos and Docker now trailing far behind.

Microsoft no doubt sees the writing on the wall and wants to add managed Kubernetes to the Azure cloud before everyone forgets that there are other Docker orchestration choices.

It also probably hopes to remain competitive with Google Container Engine, which is the only major cloud-based container service that has been Kubernetes-centric from the start.

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