At its Ignite conference, Microsoft today announced the preview launch of Azure Container Apps, a new fully managed serverless container service that complements the company's existing container infrastructure services like the Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS). Microsoft notes that Azure Container Apps was specifically built for microservices, with the ability to quickly scale based on HTTP traffic, events or long-running background jobs.
In many ways, it's probably most like AWS App Runner, one of Amazon's small fleet of serverless container services, with App Runner also specifically focused on microservices. Google meanwhile also offers a set of container-centric services, including Cloud Run, its serverless platform for running container-based applications.
Microsoft says that with Azure Container Apps, developers will be able to build their apps in the language and with the framework of their choosing and then deploy it with the help of this new service. The infrastructure itself sits on top of open-source projects like Microsoft's own Dapr application runtime and its scaling technology is powered by Kubernetes Event-Driven Autoscaling (KEDA), a project that is supported by Microsoft, Red Hat and Codit, as well as Vexxhost and Snyk.
"I think about the Azure Container Apps experience as more like a PasS-like experience to AKS, which is your IaaS," Roanne Sones, Microsoft's corporate VP for Azure Edge and Platform, explained. "In a world where customers start with IaaS and, eventually, if they could just have gone straight to PaaS, they probably would have. Because why not? All I have to do is think about my app and or consume the app -- and it's done for me. That's how I think about that laddering. If AKS is the underlying infrastructure service that you give to customers for running a CNCF-compliant Kubernetes service, then Azure Container Apps sits above that and it abstracts away more of the infrastructure so you don't have to get into the guts of that level of design and lifecycle management."
It's maybe no surprise that all of the major cloud providers now offer serverless container services of various kinds, both for sophisticated ops teams that need to have full control of their deployments and for companies that want others to handle all of this for them. And despite a plethora of tools to make this easier, managing Kubernetes clusters remains a full-time job for infrastructure teams, after all. The promise of containers has always been the ability to easily scale services up and down as needed and to free developers from having to think about the infrastructure that their code will run on. For a lot of teams that simply want to get their services into production, serverless is the way to go.