Microsoft Sets Kubernetes Strategy for the Enterprise

Microsoft is starting to press its case to let it manage Kubernetes clusters on behalf of enterprise IT organizations as they shift toward building and deploying cloud-native applications based on containers.

Lachie Evenson, principal program manager for the Azure container compute team, says critical to that effort will be extending support for many of the existing tools from Microsoft that enterprise IT organizations already rely on. For example, Microsoft has integrated Azure Active Directory with Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), which makes it possible to apply the same Active Directory policies that are used widely in on-premises IT environments to both monolithic and microservices-based applications.

At the same time, Microsoft is tightening integration of instances of its managed Kubernetes service with the operating system to speed up deployments. Microsoft claims organizations can already deploy a Kubernetes cluster on Azure in less than five minutes. A preview of ephemeral OS disk support promises to reduce that time even further. Microsoft also just made generally available a node image update capability that allows IT teams to upgrade the underlying operating system to respond to bugs or vulnerabilities in a cluster without having to upgrade to a new version of Kubernetes.

Finally, Microsoft is also previewing integration with Azure Resource Health to alert IT teams if any Kubernetes cluster has been deemed unhealthy for any reason.

Ultimately, however, Microsoft is working toward layering abstractions on top of Kubernetes to reduce the need to know how to manage a Kubernetes cluster or even invoke a Kubernetes application programming interface (API), says Evenson. Traditional enterprise IT organizations are simply going to prefer to manage Kubernetes clusters at a higher level regardless of whether they are employing Windows or Linux containers, he notes. Those applications will be constructed using some form of a GitOps-based workflow that could then revolve around, for example, a repository in GitHub, another arm of Microsoft.

In fact, Evenson notes Microsoft is also working toward making Azure Arc the foundation for a control plane through which IT organizations will be able to unify the management of IT environments based on Windows or Linux running in Azure or on-premises.

Kubernetes, of course, is only the latest in a long line of abstraction of IT infrastructure that stretches back to the arrival of the first operating system. Kubernetes itself is positioned by the Technical Oversight Committee (TOC) that oversees the development of the open source platform as a platform for building platforms. That creates an opportunity for Microsoft to develop abstractions that make Kubernetes platforms much more accessible to enterprise IT organizations, notes Evenson.

Ultimately, there will be two classes of IT organizations that adopt Kubernetes. Some will prefer to manage the platform themselves. Others will opt to focus their efforts on developing software rather than managing the IT infrastructure that software runs on. It’s not clear how many organizations will decide to lean more on managed services versus managing IT infrastructure themselves. However, as the pressure to deliver more software faster increases, it’s clear many more organizations are at least leaning toward having some other entity manage IT infrastructure on their behalf.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.

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