Microsoft has always been a company that likes to jump onto a bandwagon it thinks is going places. So it shouldn't come as any great surprise that one bandwagon it has been sure not to miss is Kubernetes, the open source project started by Google that's used at the heart of many container deployment and management systems.
In a sense it was only a matter of time before Microsoft joined the Kubernetes love-in that is engulfing just about every company with ambitions in the container space. After all, it follows a pattern: Microsoft saw what was going on with VMware and server virtualization technology, and then got heavily involved in that through Hyper-V and Azure virtualization. Then it saw what Docker was up to with containers and got involved there through the likes of Windows Containers and Azure Container Service.
Azure Kubernetes Service allows Kubernetes to run in its Azure cloud, but now Microsoft has gone a step further. It's made available a set of Kubernetes tools for Visual Studio, aimed at making life easier for developers who are building containerized applications that target Kubernetes.
Microsoft has always been serious about wooing developers, and making their life easier as they develop applications that target Kubernetes is a very sensible move.
The Kubernetes tools seek to address the fact that many developers find it challenging to create Dockerfiles, Helm charts (Helm is a package manager for Kubernetes) and other configuration-as-code files required to create container images and deploy them to Kubernetes, according to Lisa Guthrie, Microsoft's Azure Development Experience program manager.
And that's not to mention the complicated CLI commands that a developer needs to memorize to move code from Visual Studio out to a Kubernetes cluster.
"With the tools installed, you can create a new 'Container Application for Kubernetes' project, or add Kubernetes support to an existing .NET Core web application," Guthrie explains. "When you do this, Visual Studio will automatically create a Dockerfile and a Helm chart for your project. You can easily create a container image to run your application, or use these files to deploy to any Kubernetes cluster."
Speaking of the Azure Kubernetes Service, its users can also deploy straight from Visual Studio to an Azure Kubernetes Cluster in a very straightforward fashion just by choosing a new "Publish to Azure AKS" option.
A preview version of the tools is available now from the Visual Studio Marketplace, where it has already been downloaded more than 55,000 times. It originally appeared — and remains available — on GitHub at the beginning of the year. Here it is described as an "extension for interacting with Kubernetes clusters. This extension combines the
vs-kubernetes extension by @brendandburns and the
vs-helm extension by @technosophos."
Embracing Kubernetes is just one of a series of moves from Microsoft demonstrating that as well as being a big fan of Kubernetes (and containers more generally), it's also serious about helping developers and making their lives easier.
Its developer credentials were given another big boost when it swooped in to buy GitHub for $7.5 billion in early June. Jim Zemlin, the head of the Linux Foundation and a longtime critic of Microsoft's approach to open source software (Steve Ballmer once called it a cancer, remember?), described it as a "smart move" and "pretty good news for the world of open source."
Some developers begged to differ, and felt compared to remove their projects from GitHub to rival code sites like GitLab. But most did not.
What's important, though, is that the big guns like Microsoft are really getting behind Kubernetes and Kubernetes developers. The momentum behind the all-conquering container management system means that the rise of Kubernetes now looks unstoppable.
Paul Rubens is a technology journalist and contributor to ServerWatch, EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and EnterpriseMobileToday. He has also covered technology for international newspapers and magazines including The Economist and The Financial Times since 1991.