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GKE, Azure roll out Windows Kubernetes support

Cloud service providers rolled out Windows Kubernetes support this week, which may take some of the burden of Linux container management requirements out of the hands of Microsoft-only shops.

Preview versions of Windows Kubernetes support in Google Kubernetes Engine and Microsoft Azure took another step toward container parity in the cloud for Microsoft DevOps shops this week.

Windows Kubernetes support is still relatively new -- it reached a stable version in Kubernetes 1.14 upstream in March 2019, and has limitations compared to the Linux version. While Kubernetes 1.14 allows Windows Server Containers to run alongside Linux containers in the same cluster, the Kubernetes master node must still run on a Linux operating system, which could limit its appeal in Windows-only shops.

IDC analyst Gary ChenGary Chen

However, emerging support for Windows Server Containers in cloud-hosted Kubernetes services, where service providers such as Google and Microsoft manage Kubernetes master notes and underlying server infrastructure, could eliminate some of that barrier for users. That's the promise as Google and Microsoft unveil previews for Window Server Containers on Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) and Microsoft Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), this week as KubeCon EU convenes in Barcelona.

"Ideally, to manage Kubernetes really well, users should know how to handle Linux," said Gary Chen, analyst at IDC. "But cloud Kubernetes services could help to some extent by managing as much of the Linux infrastructure as possible and abstracting that from administrators."

GKE, AWS update Kubernetes monitoring tools

Another significant GKE update is the general availability of Stackdriver Kubernetes Engine Monitoring, which early adopters say potentially offers a central source of truth for Kubernetes observability that incorporates data from various sources outside Stackdriver as well, such as APM tools, the ELK stack, and Sensu.

Ideally, to manage Kubernetes really well, users should know how to handle Linux. But cloud Kubernetes services could help to some extent by ... abstracting that [Linux infrastructure] from administrators.
Gary ChenAnalyst, IDC

"We have a lot of homegrown monitoring, alerting and debugging tools, but we don't want to retire them," said Josh Koenig, head of product at Pantheon Platform, a web operations platform in San Francisco, that uses GKE and has tested Stackdriver's Kubernetes monitoring in beta. "If they can be part of the suite, we'd love to standardize on Stackdriver in the future."

Pantheon hasn't made a final decision about its Kubernetes monitoring strategy, however. Stackdriver collects highly detailed logging, tracing, metrics and statistics data, but Koenig said he worries about the potential cost of such high-volume data collection.

"We have to figure out how to winnow down the amount of data -- collecting so much information can potentially be both a great thing and a terrible thing," Koenig said. "There's always a risk when a tool is really easy to use, and possibly over-use."

GKE rival AWS also have rolled out Kubernetes monitoring enhancements with a preview of Amazon CloudWatch Container Insights, which automatically create monitoring dashboards for users of the Amazon Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes (EKS), as well as Kubernetes deployments on EC2.

GKE release streams keep pace with varied Kubernetes users

Kubernetes adoption and use in production has progressed much more quickly the last two years than adoption of virtual machines. An IDC containerization survey in early 2018 showed that 80% of Kubernetes users had at least one application in production, and IDC expects that production footprint to increase when it updates its survey data in 2019.

However, as Kubernetes remains in development and users make progress toward production Kubernetes use, cloud service providers such as GKE must accommodate a wide variety of users, from bleeding-edge cloud-native startups to conservative enterprise shops. To that end, Google previewed release channels for GKE this week. The first, an alpha version of the Rapid release channel, will offer all the latest Kubernetes features, regardless of their stability, while planned Regular and Stable channels will slowly roll out features and prioritize operational stability before they become available.

"This is pretty common in software -- Google Chrome and Windows also have release channels," IDC's Chen said. "It will be interesting to see if other public cloud vendors also offer different release channels, since they tend to be more rapid in their adoption and manage Kubernetes stability for end users."

It's also unclear at this point whether release channels will apply to the recently launched GKE Advanced service, which offers a financially backed reliability service-level agreement for enterprises.

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