Advancing Windows Containers with Docker and Kubernetes

Mar 25 2019

Today, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) announced Kubernetes 1.14,  which includes support for Windows nodes. Kubernetes supporting Windows is a monumental step for the industry and it further confirms the work Docker has been doing with Microsoft to develop Windows containers over the past five years. It is evidence that containers are not just for Linux; Windows and .NET applications represent an important and sizeable footprint of applications that can benefit from both the Docker platform and Kubernetes.

Docker’s collaboration with Microsoft started five years ago. Today, every version of Windows Server 2016 and later ships with the Docker Engine – Enterprise. In addition, to facilitate a great user experience with Windows containers, Microsoft publishes more than 129 Windows container images of its popular software on Docker Hub. Many Docker Enterprise customers are already running mixed Windows and Linux containers with Swarm, and an upcoming release of Docker Enterprise will allow our customers to expand their Windows options to Kubernetes as well. Today both Docker Enterprise and Docker Desktop users have found that the easiest way to use and manage Kubernetes is with Docker and now these users will have the same benefits with Windows containers as well.

gMSA Support in Kubernetes for Active Directory-Authenticated Applications

In the time since that first Windows Server release, we’ve been working closely with customers to understand how to make containerized Windows applications enterprise-ready for production. Our five years of experience shows us that runtime support for Windows-based containers is only one component of what enterprises require to make Windows containers with Kubernetes operational in their environment.

An additional requirement is support for configuring containerized workloads with domain credentials and identity in an Active Directory environmentInitially we worked with Microsoft to plumb in gMSA credential support for individual containers running on Docker Engine in Windows. Next, we implemented orchestrator-wide support for gMSA credentials in Swarm. Using our experience so far, we are leading the design and implementation of gMSA support for Windows workloads in Kubernetes, delivering Alpha level support for gMSA support in Kubernetes 1.14.

Many Windows-based applications are run on domain joined hosts and use Service Accounts managed by Active Directory to access other resources and services in the domain. Windows containers, however, are not full-fledged domain joined objects. Instead, Windows containers can run with a special type of service account introduced in Windows Server 2012 called group managed service accounts (gMSA). Windows uses credentials associated with a gMSA (in lieu of individual computer accounts) to enable containerized Windows applications to access other services in an Active Directory domain.

Docker, in collaboration with Microsoft and the Kubernetes community, is working to add support for gMSA in Kubernetes. This encompasses: (1) custom resources to configure credential specs for gMSAs in a cluster wide fashion, (2) authorizing and resolving references to the gMSA credential specs from pod specifications and (3) passing down the full gMSA credential spec JSON to the container runtime (like Docker engine). This feature is in alpha with Kubernetes 1.14 and you can find more about its design and implementation here. We invite you to test this out and contribute to the effort which will help to further expand the types of applications that can be run in containers and will continue to work with the community on ensuring this reaches general availability.  

Kubernetes and Windows: What’s Next

Windows admins and users also need overlay networking and dynamically provisioned storage to become enterprise-ready, and we are also working with the Kubernetes community in these areas and will have more to discuss and demonstrate at DockerCon 2019 in San Francisco. We look forward to sharing some of the progress here and hope to see you there!

To learn more about Docker and Windows containers:


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