Visual Studio Docker tools support for Visual Studio 2015 and 2017

With the Visual Studio 2017 RC release, we've started down the path to finally shipping an official version of Visual Studio Docker tools; enabling developers to locally develop and debug containerized workloads.
The latest Visual Studio 2017 RC Docker Tools added a number of anticipated features:

  • Multi-container debugging, supporting true microservice scenarios
  • Windows Server Containers for .NET Framework apps
  • Addition of CI build definition using a file at the solution level.
  • Return of the Publishing experience that integrates the newly released public preview of the Azure Container Registry and Azure App Service
  • Configure Continuous Integration experience for setting up CI/CD with VSTS to Azure Container Services

We also spent a lot of time improving the overall quality

  • Performance for first and subsequent debugging sessions, keeping the containers running
  • Focus on optimized images for production deployments
  • Cleanup of the docker files for consolidating on a single dockerfile for both debug and release and factoring the docker-compose files into a hierarchy, rather than parallel mode leveraging the docker-compose -f flag.
  • Better handling for volume sharing failures - at least providing better insight

There are bunch of other great features and quality items that went in to the Visual Studio RC release. It would be great to hear which you like the most, or would like the most.

What about Visual Studio 2015?

The matrix of support scenarios are quite complex, particularly now that we ship inside Visual Studio. The current Visual Studio Docker Tools also focus on .NET Core with Linux, with the addition of .NET Framework targeting Windows Server Containers. While .NET Framework continues to be supported on VS 2015, the current .NET tooling has moved to Visual Studio 2017.

We also have a backlog of items that are required for RTW as well as customers asks, including:

  • Open Source the Visual Studio Docker Tools
  • Localization
  • Complete Perf work
  • Cleanup some of the artifacts left behind (solution level obj folder)
  • Converge the two debugging buttons as we need better solution level support for solution level debugging from VS
  • Add Nano Container support for .NET Core
  • Continue to improve perf for Windows Containers
  • Add Visual Studio for Mac docker tooling
  • Image renaming - as the image and service names are referenced in several docker-compose.*.yml files
  • Language services for dockerfile and docker-compose.*.yml files


Attempting to keep both the Visual Studio 2015 and Visual Studio 2017 ship vehicles going would be fairly large effort, and if we took that on, a number of the above items would have to fall below the cut line.

Going forward, past Visual Studio 2017, we absolutely will support an N-1 support policy. Whether that's Visual Studio 2017 + 1/-1, or Visual Studio updates, we'll have to see.

However, at this point, Docker Containers are a relatively new technology that has a lot of rapid changes. We believe customers would prefer us to keep up and even lead in the tooling space as we also believe we'll attract far more customers with the new features then slowing down to support the current scenarios.

What do you think?



Comments (6)

  1. I’d much rather see docker support push full steam ahead on VS 2017 and beyond. 2017 is already in RC. Slowing down the 2017 release to accommodate 2015 would be a step backwards. Look forward, not back!


    I’m using visual studio 2015 and have docker support added, how can I mount the volume. I don’t see docker run command to add my custom -v option to map it from host to container path.

    1. Steve Lasker says:

      Hi Tarunendra,
      At this point, we no longer support Visual Studio 2015. The container tooling was focused on .NET Core, and VS 2015 does not support the current .NET Core 1.x runtime.

  3. 9rune5 says:

    I’ve spent a week now trying to grok containers. It hasn’t been easy. The tutorials I find employ a “throw-and-run” approach, just as things are getting interesting the tutorial or how-to ends. Having to hunt down private builds of the docker tools on github, to get a hello world sample running, was another setback.

    So I have my app running inside a container, running neatly from VS. Where do I go from here? I need to allow my container users to inject a configuration file that contains a list of database connection strings. I need to build this thing on my tfs build agent. I need all of this to interact with the databases I have in my test environment (presumably hosted in a sql server container). And did somebody mention azure? Yeah, I’ll want to go there next.

    A centralized collection of how-to links that will collectively paint the full picture would be most welcome.

  4. What’s the latest with this project? I’m interesting in Windows Containers on Windows Server 2016 and debugging them using Visual Studio 2017

    1. Steve Lasker says:

      Hi mmoore25_1234,
      With the latest stable version of Visual Studio 2017 you can develop .NET Fx apps with Windows Server containers. With the preview channel of Visual Studio 2017, you can also develop & debug .NET Core apps with Windows Nano Server.

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