Microsoft® has not been subtle about their focus on cloud computing. It wasn’t long ago that the mere notion of surpassing Amazon® (AWS™) or even competing for market share seemed completely unattainable, but the software giant is closing the gap. During the most recent fiscal year, Microsoft reported nearly doubling Azure™ revenue during each quarter (Q1FY17 +116%, Q2 +93%, Q3 +93%, Q4 +97%). Even though AWS still holds a commanding lead, reporting about three times the revenue of Azure, Microsoft is aggressively selling their cloud services and introducing new functionality to entice potential customers.
The latest such offering is Azure Container Instances (ACI), which provides the ability to quickly and easily spin up and take down workloads on a single container in the cloud with the precise amount of memory (1 – 3.5GB/core) and CPU cores of your choice. Unlike many cloud computing models, users only pay for the time used, down to the second, rather than by the minute or hour.
Using containers with most cloud services, including Microsoft’s own Azure Container Service, require the use of a virtual machine. One of the greatest benefits of working with ACI containers is that they don’t require Hyper-V or other virtual machines, making it much easier to manage.
ACI will compete with Google’s™ Container Engine and AWS’s EC2 Container Service, both of which require a VM. Microsoft reminds us that ACI does not require a VM and is all about simplicity, speed, and the payment model.
ACI is currently in preview mode and only supports Linux® containers today, but Microsoft assures us it will support Windows™ containers in the coming weeks.