Microsoft Switches on Multiple Linux Platforms on Azure Today
The rumors turn out to be true: Microsoft will indeed run Linux on its Azure cloud platform. SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, CentOS, and Ubuntu 12.04 are all among Linux distributions being switched on on the Azure platform today. Users will be able to pick and choose from various Linux distributions available in the cloud and will pay as they go by the hour. This, of course, removes installation and other types of headaches for individual users who want to work with Linux in an instant-on way. However, the real significance of the move is in the fact that Azure now becomes competitive with platforms such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux and the cloud services that Red Hat offers.
A statement from Microsoft reveals that its moves with Linux on Azure are squarely aimed at enterprises and CIOs interested in running multiple operating systems in the cloud:
"As enterprise adoption of Windows Azure and cloud computing grows, the importance of coming together to solve interoperability issues is only growing. We at Microsoft want to work with the ecosystem of vendors and communities to deliver cloud solutions to customers based on their specific needs and scenarios," Sandy Gupta, general manager of the Open Solutions Group at Microsoft. "Through our continued engagement on technical interoperability with SUSE, we look forward to delivering core value to those running mission-critical, mixed-source IT environments from the data center and into the cloud."
To get a sense of how Microsoft will compete very directly with Red Hat, consider this: CentOS--one of the Linux distributions being switched on on Azure today--is an enterprise-class Linux distribution derived from the publicly available source code for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). In other words, if you just add quality support to CentOS running on Azure, you can pitch the platform directly to CIOs who might be considering RHEL. You can also get an advantage with those CIOs if they are already running Microsoft platforms and applications--which many of them are.
Further, OpenLogic has clarified that it will be supporting CentOS on Azure, having supported CentOS for years. The bottom line is that many cloud-based web applications require open source applications that in turn require Linux. At the same time, many enterprises are tied to Microsoft Windows and applications for it. They want to run Windows and Linux, and that is what is really behind Microsoft's announcement regarding Azure.
This is big news in the cloud. There was a time when Microsoft might not have considered a strategy of running Linux and Windows alongside each other in commercial offerings, but today that is what the Redmond software giant is doing. For some time now, Microsoft has moved from its stance of years ago, where it didn't make it easy to run Linux compatibly with its other tools, toward ensuring that Linux users can arrive on its platforms, and bring applications there.
As we noted here, Microsoft is not only one of the top contributors to the Linux kernel, but virtualization at the server level is now easy and efficient enough that IT adminstrators are already running Linux and Windows together. The Azure-related Linux announcements will only make it easier for them to do so, and they can do so on a pay as they go basis.