Have you ever seen a container ship? It\u2019s huge and piled high with identical steel boxes, carrying a vast array of goods such as food, furniture and toys. That same concept is now being put to work in IT. Containers are poised to transform the way we build and use applications. But an application container is no steel box. It\u2019s a layer of abstraction that works a lot like virtualization, but is far more lightweight and has very little overhead.\nSounds neat, but what good is it? For starters, a single machine can run many more containers than VMs. And it\u2019s easy to launch or take down a container in a matter of seconds. These characteristics are ideally suited to cloud computing. Think of quickly launching an application in a container on a server in your data center, then moving that application and its container to a cloud service \u2013 and then back.\u00a0 That\u2019s the kind of portability that application developers and IT pros have long been seeking. .\nTo make it work, standardization is critical. That\u2019s where an open-source technology called Docker comes in. Many vendors, including Microsoft, have jumped aboard. Microsoft is enabling the use of Docker on Windows Server, Hyper-V virtual machines and its Azure cloud service. You\u2019ll be able to create a container on, for example, Windows Server, and then move it to a Hyper-V VM and then to Azure \u2013 and back.\nAt the same time as the Docker announcement, Microsoft rolled out Nano Server, a \u201cminimal footprint\u201d installation option of Windows Server that is optimized for the cloud, including containers. The idea behind Nano Server is to provide just what you need \u2013 no more, no less \u00a0\u2013 so your server image is smaller. That cuts deployment times and reduces the network bandwidth needed.\u00a0 Uptime and security are also increased.\n\u201cMicrosoft\u2019s container initiative also spans both Linux and Windows \u2013 highly important because many companies run a mix of both environments. Your application and its container can run wherever it\u2019s most functional and economical.\nDocker has come a long way in the two years since its birth, creating an ecosystem of hundreds of non-Docker employees contributing code and a large number of industry supporters. There are more than 45,000 public images (an image is the basis of a container) that can be found on the Docker Hub Registry.\nContainerization promises rapid application development and deployment of lightweight applications that are platform independent. If you liked virtual machines, you\u2019ll love containers.