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Windows Server 2016 Preview 3 brings containers at last

Docker-compatible Windows containers have arrived

The third technical preview of Windows Server 2016 is here, and with it, Microsoft takes another step forward into the much-hyped world of cloud native computing.

Most importantly, this build gives us our first look at Windows Server Containers, which were conspicuously absent from the previous build that shipped in May.

Redmond first revealed that the next version of Windows Server would include support for containers in October, when it announced a collaboration with Docker to enable the same tools to manage containers on both Windows and Linux.

According to a Wednesday blog post from Microsoft's Mike Neil, this first preview of the software giant's container tech has already made good on that partnership.

"Windows Server Containers are now part of the Docker open source project," Neil wrote. "These containers can be deployed and managed either using PowerShell or the Docker client."

Note, however, that these are only the standard Windows Server Containers that run in sandboxes directly on the host OS. A second technology that increases security by wrapping containers in Hyper-V virtual machines will also be available in Windows Server 2016, but we won't get a look at that until a future preview.

Like the earlier preview, this release also includes a new build of Nano Server, Microsoft's take on micro-sized, minimal footprint operating systems like CoreOS and Red Hat Atomic Host.

As with those stripped-down versions of Linux, one day you may run Nano Server with only those OS features that you need and launch all of your workloads on it as containers. For now it's still an experimental system that's mainly here for admins to evaluate and provide feedback.

This second release of Nano Server introduces a new Emergency Management Console that lets you fix networking configuration glitches from within the Nano Server console. It also includes a PowerShell script for spinning up Nano Server VMs on Microsoft's Azure cloud, and you can now run ASP.Net 5 applications on it using the CoreCLR version of the .Net runtime.

Other new features included in this preview of Windows Server 2016 include an early look at Microsoft's new software-defined networking subsystem that enables centralized network configuration and a software load balancer. There's also experimental support for "Shielded VMs," which further isolate VMs from the underlying host.

A full breakdown of what's new in the release is available here, and the official release notes can be viewed here. If you'd rather just dive in blind, on the other hand, you can grab the latest installation images here, although you'll need to register for the preview program using a Microsoft account. ®

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