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All aboard the Windows Server container train as Google punts out Rapid Release GKE channel

Docker: Hey, remember us? We've got Windows Server containers too!

Kubecon Europe The ongoing game of tit-for-tat feature updates among the Big Three cloud players continued this week, with Google confirming support for Windows Server Containers at Kubecon.

Google joins Microsoft, which announced the container tech last week, and Amazon, which has had the thing lurking around as a developer preview since March.

While Amazon's Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes (EKS) started with Kubernetes 1.11, Google, having enjoyed a hosted Kubernetes environment pretty much since day one of the orchestration tech, held back until Kubernetes 1.14, when production-level support for Windows nodes put in an appearance.

As for the thinking behind the wait, Aparna Sinha, director of product management for Kubernetes OSS and Kubernetes Engine, told The Register: "In 1.14, we think that it is ready for our users to try. Before that we did not – our engineering team did not feel confident that Windows support was ready. And so we didn't introduce it."

Sinha also pointed out that it wasn't just Kubernetes that Google was waiting for. She went on to highlight the likes of Windows storage and networking that needed to be worked out, remarking that "the Windows operating system didn't initially support some, you know, some of these capabilities as far as Kubernetes Containers were concerned."

So it's Windows Server 2019 or nothing as far as Google is concerned (for the time being at least). Anything earlier will have to be by popular demand, and will require a chat with the ad-flinger's Chromium chum, Microsoft.

While some may dream of modernising legacy applications by taking a chisel to monolithic lumps of .NET code and creating microservices, the commercial reality is that many enterprises will simply lift and shift their Windows code into the container world. For Google, this could be its cloud, or on-premises via the freshly released (and renamed) Anthos.

Of course, customers will also need to ensure their code actually works on Windows Server 2019.

Sinha also pointed to the introduction (in alpha) of GKE release channels for flinging out updates. Google is introducing three channels for GKE clusters – starting with Rapid, then Regular and Stable. As the names suggest, the channels allow customers to balance their tolerance for a big kaboom versus getting the newest shiny.

Google's take on Windows Server Containers in Kubernetes 1.14 on GKE will hit the Rapid channel in June.

Also at Kubecon we caught up with Justin Graham, a product leader at Docker, who told us that if Windows Server containers were your thing, the Docker Kubernetes Service (DKS) had the technology in private preview, with a hoped-for GA some point this year.

Graham was quick to add: "Also, Swarm does support Windows Containers and has since 2017. Windows customers have chosen Swarm for that purpose."

Docker has had to watch as Kubernetes has, er, swarmed over devs that might have once have opted for its Swarm technology. The company included DKS in its Docker Enterprise 3 product with a view to making Kubernetes easier to use and adopt and, with luck, keep that Docker brand rocking and rolling. ®

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