Microsoft, HP Help Pump $73M Into Mesosphere's Container Management

Mesosphere unveils two new products as tech giants, including Microsoft and HP, and venture funders bet that its Data Center Operating System will play an important role in container orchestration.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

March 25, 2016

4 Min Read
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As the idea of micro-services catches on with developers, the use of containers is proliferating as a way to package and move them around. But as thousands of containers start inhabiting the enterprise data center, is container management keeping up?

HP and Microsoft may see that as a looming concern for their customers. That may be one reason they're contributing toward a $73.5 million investment in Mesosphere, whose Data Center Operating System (DCOS) offers container scheduling, orchestration, and tracking capabilities.

Mesosphere just conducted its C round of funding, which brought its total raised to date to $126 million. The round included HP Ventures and Microsoft as "strategic investors," according to Matt Trifiro, Mesosphere product marketing manager. The investors not only want to see the company gain value, they're counting on it to produce technologies that will be drafted into their product lines, he said.

"Mesosphere is at the center of three of the biggest tech trends today -- cloud, containerization, and micro-services," said Scott Guthrie, executive VP of Microsoft's Cloud + Enterprise division, in Mesosphere's announcement on Thursday, March 24. He said that Mesosphere's DCOS was a "mature container orchestration system," and that was why Microsoft chose it as part of its plan to bring containers into the Azure cloud.

Microsoft is slated to add the ability to run Docker containers under Windows, later this year, in its next version of Windows Server. Azure Container Service became available in preview on the Microsoft cloud in February. It launches Linux containers through either Docker Swarm, the container scheduling and cluster-building software from Docker, or Mesosphere's DCOS.

"Mesosphere's DCOS is the most exciting new enterprise operating system since Linux," said Lak Ananth, managing director at Hewlett Packard Ventures, in Thursday's announcement.

DCOS, which Mesosphere released last June, is built atop the Mesos cluster management open source code. Mesos was started as project in 2009 in the research and development lab of UC Berkeley. Twitter, Airbnb, eBay, the Verizon Cloud, and Apple's Siri all make use of the Mesos open source code for building container clusters.

It is an attempt at a modern approach to the data center, capable of managing not only bare-metal servers and virtual machines, but containers as well. Mesosphere's Trifiro described DCOS as "production grade" and a step ahead of the well-known Kubernetes and Docker Swarm cluster builders.

In addition, Mesosphere announced a new product, Velocity, to work with DCOS. Velocity incorporates the Jenkins open source code tool for continuous integration as a container-based application receives frequent updates from the development team.

The orchestration component of DCOS is based on the Apache Marathon project. Containerized services can be initiated and launched on a cluster through the Marathon orchestration engine. In addition to its venture funding results, on March 24 Mesosphere announced availability of the 1.0 version of Marathon.

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DCOS, Marathon, and Velocity will all work with Docker containers, but Trifiro noted that DCOS natively supports containerization based on Linux C groups.

"Native C groups are considered more efficient and more reliable" than other containerization methods, including Docker. Google, which endorses Docker as a container formatting engine, nevertheless relies on C group containerization for its own production operations, Trifiro said.

C groups were developed at Google, and then contributed to the Linux kernel development process, where they were incorporated into kernel operations.

In addition to relying on C groups, DCOS "is a two-level scheduler," said Trifiro.

That means there can be more than one scheduler at work at launching containers on a DCOS cluster, and the operating system can referee between them. It wouldn't be unusual for a data center cluster to be running schedulers from the Cassandra NoSQL system, Marathon, and the Spark big data system at the same time -- all making use of containerized application logic. DCOS assigns resources to "frameworks," or subunits of the cluster, and the other schedulers then make use of the resources assigned to them, he explained.

The combination of attributes makes DCOS "really unique," claimed Trifiro, and helps explain why HP, Microsoft, and other venture capital investors, including Andreesen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, Fuel Capital, Triangle Peak Partners, and A Capital, are willing to get behind it.

Although DCOS's default is Linux C group, it can also use Docker and Docker Swarm for formatting and launching a container cluster, if the customer prefers.

About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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