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Delivering applications quickly is key to staying competitive in today’s fast-paced business environment. To respond, many organizations are looking for ways to accelerate how they move applications from development into production and continuously improve them to respond to business changes. DevOps-oriented tools and processes, which offer agile innovation and faster time to market, are empowering both developers and IT to meet this demand and drive new levels of value to their business. Containers are increasingly seen as an ideal solution to embrace DevOps giving developers increased agility while reducing operations management challenges for IT.

Today, in our third Technical Preview of Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016, we are releasing the first public preview of Windows Server Containers to bring these benefits to our customers. We are also introducing features including new Nano Server functionality and software-defined datacenter enhancements to help you build a solid foundation for modern applications and services.

Fueling Modern Application Innovation with Windows Server Containers

Windows Server Containers create a highly agile Windows Server environment, enabling you to accelerate the DevOps process to efficiently build and deploy modern applications. Through this release, millions of Windows developers will be able to experience the benefits of containers for the first time using the languages of their choice – whether.NET, ASP.NET, and PowerShell or Python, Ruby on Rails, Java and many others.

Today’s announcement delivers on the promise we made in partnership with Docker, the fast-growing open platform for distributed applications, to offer container and DevOps benefits to Linux and Windows Server users alike. Windows Server Containers are now part of the Docker open source project. These containers can be deployed and managed either using PowerShell or the Docker client.

In addition to working with Docker to deliver Windows Server Containers, we continue to support choice and flexibility around containers through:

  • Ensuring a first-rate experience for containers on Azure. We recently released Docker VM Extensions for Linux on Azure, Docker CLI support on Windows, and Visual Studio Tools for Docker to empower you to build and run modern applications.
  • Contributing to the open source development of the Docker Engine for Windows Server with a goal to enable the Docker client to manage multi-container applications using both Linux and Windows containers, regardless of the hosting environment or cloud provider.
  • Joining the Open Container Initiative to deliver an open, universal container image format and runtime under the Linux Foundation.
  • Expanding the ecosystem, through work with Canonical around the LXD REST API, a cross-platform container management layer that will bring new container innovation to Windows and Ubuntu developers.

We are also introducing updates to Visual Studio and Visual Studio Online that make it possible for developers to use the tools they know and love to deploy the Windows Server Container experience. Available today, from Visual Studio, you can create a Windows Server Container host within Azure, publish your ASP.NET web or console app to the newly built container, and then deploy it to a container host. Coming soon, Visual Studio Online’s continuous integration and release management capabilities will allow you to automate this process and manage releases of your containerized applications.

Finally, a future preview of Windows Server 2016, will include Hyper-V Containers, a second container deployment option that will provide higher isolation using an optimized virtualization and Windows Server operating system that separates containers from each other and from the host operating system. This higher level of isolation expands the possibilities for deploying containers in lower trust or mixed operational environments where developers may not have control of the platform.  For more information on our container offerings, check out this recent blog post by Mark Russinovich, Microsoft Azure CTO.

Delivering New Software-Defined Datacenter Features

Our latest preview of Windows Server 2016 also includes new Azure-inspired software-defined datacenter features, extending the functionality of our leading operating system and application platform. Key updates you can expect to see include:

  • Enhanced Nano Server functionality: we have added a new Emergency Management Console so you can view and fix your networking configuration directly from the Nano Server console, and a new PowerShell script that allows you to create a Nano Azure VM.
  • Simplified software-defined networking: we are delivering a scalable network controller, for centralized network configuration as well as a software load balancer for high availability and performance.
  • Extended security: Shielded VMs, which enable isolation between the underlying host and virtual machines, help protect resources in shared environments. Now you can test creation of a shielded VM from a signed template, along with other aspects of the shielded VM functionality.
  • Management: System Center feature enhancements make it easier for you to manage virtualized environments including support for rolling upgrades, shielded VM’s and guarded host support, and automated maintenance windows.

To read more about the Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 Technical Preview 3, check out more of our favorite features here. We hope you’ll take the time to check out the full preview, and we look forward to hearing what you think.