Windows Containers and 'Microvisors'
A new Microsoft partner, Sphere 3D, is making containers that have fewer dependencies than Docker.
Containers are still relatively new on the scene. Docker, of course, is the most famous name in containers, but competitors are cropping up weekly. And with those competitors come new technologies that are changing even the nature of containers.
One of those competitors is working specifically in the Windows world. In its push to simplify migration of Windows applications to cloud infrastructures without dependencies on hardware or software platforms, Microsoft has added Sphere 3D as its latest partner to deliver Windows containers. The two companies announced a partnership today to deliver Glassware 2.0 Windows containers for Azure.
Sphere 3D said it's collaborating with Microsoft to develop tools to simplify the migration of Windows-based end user applications to Azure. The two companies are first working to offer Glassware 2.0-based workloads in Azure for schools. Later in the year, Sphere 3D will offer other tools, the company said. Unlike Microsoft's higher-profile container partner Docker, which is open source, Glassware 2.0 is a proprietary platform designed to virtualize applications without requiring a virtualized desktop.
The Glassware 2.0 suite includes a micro hypervisor which the company calls a "Microvisor." Unlike a traditional hypervisor, which requires a guest OS for applications to run, the "Microvisor only pulls in elements of the OS stack needed for the software application to run, and also fills in any gaps that may be present, in particular with applications needing functionality not inherent in whichever OS stack you happen to be using," according to the company's description.
Glassware 2.0 also includes containers, management tools and clustering software. The containers are designed to run multiple instances of the same app in a Glassware 2.0-based server. It provides the ability to share binaries, libraries or the Glassware 2.0 Microvisor, according to the company. This environment provides access only to those components of an operating system an application needs to run. It supports applications running in Windows XP, Windows 7 and Windows 8.x environments.
"When we created Glassware 2.0, we envisioned a time where any application, regardless of its hardware or operating dependencies, could be easily delivered across multiple platforms from the cloud," said Eric Kelly, Sphere 3D's CEO in a statement. "Today, by joining forces with Microsoft, we have taken a substantial step towards realizing that vision."
The company says the Glassware 2.0 Microvisor can virtualize infrastructure components and the application stacks from both Windows and non-Windows-based systems and claims it can "outperform" any existing hypervisor-based infrastructure. Furthermore, the company said it can be used for systems and cloud management, orchestration and clustering. The Glassware Manager runs in Windows Server 2008 and above.
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.