Microsoft released the Azure Container Instance last week and unlike the rest of the container oriented cloud solutions in the market, this is a unique solution and I couldn’t resist trying it out. The Quick start guide in https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/container-instances/container-instances-quickstart let’s us experience how it can be utilized from the az-cli console bothe from the azure website and from the laptop. The rest of the tutorials also help understand how a standalone app can be packaged, loaded into the Azure Container Registry and the run inside the ACI.
So, what is this service….
To start with, it is basically Docker Linux Instances created on call and destroyed without the tenant having to invest in a fixed pool of virtual machines which happens to be the case with other Container Services. This is not the first time and there are other players in the market providing similar services (hyper.sh, now.sh etc.) where the customers can have their own Orchestration Infrastructure on Dedicated Infrastructure and utilise the Flexible Cloud Infrastructure that can scale from ‘0’ to …a very large number. Of course, there are the server-less services provided by the big three cloud vendors…but they happen to be very opinionated and short-lived on a per invocation basis. ACI on the contrary Gives the Server-less experience in an unopinionated way and perfectly ready for limited but long running services.
To enable this capability to be controlled by customer built orchestrators, Microsoft has already released the ACI-Connector (https://github.com/Azure/aci-connector-k8s)for Kubernetes. This connector runs as a container in the Local Kubernetes Infrastructure and proxies the requests to create and destroy containers as per the developer provided yaml. From my testing this was not working on the day of launch but got fixed on 4thAug2017…Works perfectly now…. I hope that in future this capability expands to other orchestrators and adds more features.
What would be good use cases for this?
Like similar Container PaaS services available this can be used to handle worker services which need more compute time than what the server-less services can accept. Otherwise with current pricing this is not a good candidate to replace always-on VM based services.