Docker Competitor Puts Windows Server Into Containers

DH2i says its native Windows containers are superior.

Containers are a hot technology, and the one currently burning brightest is Docker; it's the default starting point for admins considering using containers in their enterprise. But as with any new tech with a lot of buzz, contenders spring up almost immediately. That's happening in the Windows world.

A little-known startup that offers data protection and SQL Server migration tools today released what it calls the first native container management platform for Windows Server, and claims it can move workloads between virtual machines (VMs) and cloud architectures. DH2i's DX Enterprise encapsulates Windows Server application instances into containers, removing the association between the apps, data and the host operating systems connected to physical servers.

The Fort Collins, Colo.-based company's software is a lightweight 8.5 MB server installation that offers a native alternative to Linux-based Docker containers. At the same time, Microsoft and Docker are working on porting their containers to Windows, as announced last fall. In addition to its relationship with Microsoft, Docker has forged ties with all major infrastructure and cloud providers including Google, VMware and IBM. Docker and Microsoft are jointly developing a container technology that will work on the next version of Windows Server.

In his TechDays briefing last week, Microsoft Distinguished Engineer Jeffrey Snover confirmed that the company will include support for Docker containers in the next Windows Server release, known as Windows vNext.

DH2i president and CEO Don Boxley explained why he believes DX Enterprise is a better alternative to Docker, pointing to that fact that it's purely Windows Server-based.

"When you look at a Docker container and what they're talking about with Windows containerization, those are services that they're looking at then putting some isolation kind of activities in the future," Boxley said. "It's a really important point that Docker's containers are two containerized applications. Yet there are still going to be a huge amount of traditional applications simultaneously. We'll be able to put any of those application containers inside of our virtual host and have stop-start ordering or any coordination that needs to happen between the old type of applications and the new and/or just be able to manage them in the exact same way. It forces them to be highly available and extends now to a containerized application."

The company's containers, called "Vhosts," each have their own logical host name, associated IP addresses and portable native NTFS volumes. The Vhost's metadata assigns container workload management, while directing the managed app to launch and run locally, according to the company. Each Vhost shares one Windows Server operating system instance, which are stacked on either virtual or physical servers. This results in a more consolidated way of managing application workloads and enabling instance portability, Boxley explained.

Unlike Docker, there are "no companion virtual machines running Linux, or anything like that at all," Boxer said. "It's just a native Windows application; you load it onto your server and you can start containerizing things right away. And again, because of that universality of our container technology, we don't care whether or not the server is physical, virtual or running in the cloud. As long as it's running Windows Server OS, you're good to go. You can containerize applications in Azure and in Rackspace and Amazon, and if the replication data pipe is right, you can move those workloads around transparently." At the same time, Boxley said it will work with Docker containers in the future.

Boxley said a customer can also transparently move workloads between any VM platform, including VMware, Hyper-V and Xen. "It really doesn't matter because we're moving the applications, not the machine or the OS," he said. Through its management console, it automates resource issues, including contention among containers. The management component also provides alerts and ensures applications are meeting SLAs.

Asked why it chose Windows Server to develop DX Enterprise, Boxley said he believes it will remain the dominant environment for virtual applications. "We don't think -- we know it's going to grow," he said. IDC analyst Al Gillen said that's partly true, though Linux servers will grow in physical environments. Though he hasn't tested DX Enterprise, Gillen said the demo looked promising. "For customers that have an application that they have to move and they don't have the ability to port it, this is actually a viable solution for them," Gillen said.

Boxley said the solution is also a viable option for organizations looking to migrate applications from Windows Server 2003, which Microsoft will no longer support as of July 14, to a newer environment. The software is priced at $1,500 per server core (if running on a VM, it can be licensed via the underlying core), regardless of the number of CPUs. Support, including patches, costs $360 per core per year.

Boxley said the company is self-funded, and started out as a Microsoft BizSpark partner.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.


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