Development teams that don’t want to manage virtual machines now have the option of running serverless containers thanks to Azure Container Instances (ACI).

ACI is now generally available and will allow customers to deploy containers without needing to look after the virtual machines (VMs) on which they sit.

Serverless computing is something of a misnomer, given that it still require servers. The difference is that customers operating in a ‘serverless’ way don’t have any involvement in the provisioning or management of these – they simply pay for what they use.

Using containers is also an increasingly popular strategy, with some touting then as a replacement for the virtual machine, given the fact they are less resource-intensive. However, there is now a general trend towards using a combination of both, given the increased security that is provided by VMs, which create a more isolated environment than containers.

Microsoft released a preview of ACI last summer and describes its release as ‘first-of-its-kind.’ The AWS equivalent, Fargate, was announced late last year. It also believes that the release ‘fundamentally’ changes container technology, and notes that it is the first example of the technology to run in the public cloud.

With the announcement of general availability, Microsoft has also said that prices will be lowered. According to a blog post by Corey Sanders, Azure’s corporate VP, ACI is the ‘fastest cloud-native option.’

Sanders continues: ‘In addition to the ease-of-use and granular billing available with ACI, customers are choosing ACI as their serverless container solution because of its deep security model, protecting each individual container at a hyper-visor level.’

This may come as welcome news for many who have concerns about the relative security weakness that containers face compared to VMs. As Sanders notes, multi-tenant workloads running inside containers on the same virtual machines are difficult to secure. He argues that the ‘strong security boundary’ in ACI will eliminate this challenge.

A survey carried out by Portworx in 2017 found that 32% of companies spent $500,000 (approx. £358,000) or more a year on license and usage fees for container technologies, compared to just 5% the year before.