Windows Container Support for Red Hat OpenShift provides built-in support for running Microsoft Windows Server containers on OKD. For those that administer heterogeneous environments with a mix of Linux and Windows workloads, OKD allows you to deploy Windows workloads running on Windows Server containers while also providing traditional Linux workloads hosted on Fedora CoreOS (FCOS) or Fedora.

Windows container workloads are supported for clusters running on the following cloud providers:

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)

  • Microsoft Azure

The following Windows Server operating systems are supported for OKD 4:

  • Windows Server Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC): Windows Server 2019

For more information, see Microsoft’s documentation on Windows Server channels.

Multi-tenancy for clusters that have Windows nodes is not supported. Hostile multi-tenant usage introduces security concerns in all Kubernetes environments. Additional security features like pod security policies, or more fine-grained role-based access control (RBAC) for nodes, make exploits more difficult. However, if you choose to run hostile multi-tenant workloads, a hypervisor is the only security option you should use. The security domain for Kubernetes encompasses the entire cluster, not an individual node. For these types of hostile multi-tenant workloads, you should use physically isolated clusters.

Windows Server Containers provide resource isolation using a shared kernel but are not intended to be used in hostile multitenancy scenarios. Scenarios that involve hostile multitenancy should use Hyper-V Isolated Containers to strongly isolate tenants.

Windows workload management

To run Windows workloads in your cluster, you must first install the Windows Machine Config Operator (WMCO). The WMCO is a Linux-based Operator that runs on Linux-based control plane and compute nodes. The WMCO orchestrates the process of deploying and managing Windows workloads on a cluster.

WMCO workflow
Figure 1. WMCO design

Before deploying Windows workloads, you must create a Windows compute node and have it join the cluster. The Windows node hosts the Windows workloads in a cluster, and can run alongside other Linux-based compute nodes. You can create a Windows compute node by creating a Windows machine set to host Windows Server compute machines. You must apply a Windows-specific label to the machine set that specifies a Windows OS image that has the Docker-formatted container runtime add-on enabled.

Currently, the Docker-formatted container runtime is used in Windows nodes. Kubernetes is deprecating Docker as a container runtime; you can reference the Kubernetes documentation for more information in Docker deprecation. Containerd will be the new supported container runtime for Windows nodes in a future release of Kubernetes.

The WMCO watches for machines with the Windows label. Once a Windows machine set is detected and its respective machines are provisioned, the WMCO configures the underlying Windows VM so that it can join the cluster as a compute node.

Mixed Windows and Linux workloads
Figure 2. Mixed Windows and Linux workloads

The WMCO expects a predetermined secret in its namespace containing a private key that is used to interact with the Windows instance. WMCO checks for this secret during boot up time and creates a user data secret which you must reference in the Windows MachineSet object that you created. Then the WMCO populates the user data secret with a public key that corresponds to the private key. With this data in place, the cluster can connect to the Windows VM using an SSH connection.

Once the cluster establishes a connection with the Windows VM, you can manage the Windows node using similar practices as you would a Linux-based node. Scheduling Windows workloads to a Windows node can be done with typical pod scheduling practices like taints, tolerations, and node selectors, but you must also differentiate your Windows workloads from Linux workloads and other Windows-versioned workloads by using a RuntimeClass object.

Windows node services

The following Windows-specific services are installed on each Windows node:

Service Description


Registers the Windows node and manages its status.

Container Network Interface (CNI) plug-ins

Exposes networking for Windows nodes.

Windows Machine Config Bootstrapper (WMCB)

Configures the kubelet and CNI plug-ins.


Creates the OKD Host Network Service (HNS).


Maintains network rules on nodes allowing outside communication.