Microsoft just made an aggressive move against Google in the cloud wars

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There’s a war going on between Microsoft, Google, and Amazon that’s almost entirely invisible to the majority of the world that doesn’t code.

Each of the three technology giants has a cloud platform, where applications can run at tremendous scales more efficiently in their own data centres.

Obviously, each would rather developers use their cloud platform than those others. That means giving the people who build applications the tools they want and the tools they need.

Today, Microsoft made a very aggressive move in that direction with the launch of Hyper-V containers and Microsoft Nano Server, two very boring-sounding technologies that have tremendous implications for how Microsoft works with developers.

Right now, there’s a tremendous shift going on in application development. Developers are turning to what we call “containers” to package applications up in such a way that they can run anywhere, on any cloud. Google’s been using containers in its own data center to great effect for many years.

But most of those containers still need an operating system to run inside of them. Just this week, Google led a $US12 million round of funding for CoreOS, which makes an extremely stripped-down version of Linux that’s ideal for this — full operating systems make the containers slow and clunky, so leanness is a virtue.

Now, Microsoft has its own competitor with Microsoft Nano Server, a version of its flagship Windows Server that strips out everything including the user interface in the name of making containers into lean, mean, computing machines.

“As customers adopt modern applications and next-generation cloud technologies, they need an OS that delivers speed, agility and lower resource consumption,” writes Microsoft in the official blog entry.

As for those Hyper-V containers, they use Microsoft’s trademark hypervisor in conjunction with the hyper-hot Docker container technology to help customers manage the applications they have running in the cloud, all in the name of more efficiency.

This is going to be a tightrope walk for Microsoft. On the one hand, Microsoft wants to ensure the dominance of Windows Server far into the future of the cloud. On the other hand, developers have never had more options, and containers give them even more choices about who they give their business to. The same is true for Google and Amazon, both of which also support containers.

But with Google’s CoreOS investment — and the fact that some of Google’s technology made its way into CoreOS product — and Microsoft’s announcements here, it looks like they’re going to be fighting for cloud dominance with developers as their proxies, even as Microsoft works hard at opening the door to outside technologies like never before.

Microsoft will release more details on the future of Windows Server at its Microsoft Build event later this month.

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