Linux on Microsoft Azure Platform-as-a-Service: Big Whoop

As much fun as it is to view the world in a “Linux versus Microsoft” way, the reality is that a technology monoculture is less useful than a heterogenous one. Even Microsoft knows this: they’ve made a variety of tepid attempts to support integration with other operating systems for decades, because they know their customers are relying on those other systems. More recently Microsoft has even contributed to the Linux kernel.

So it shouldn’t be terribly surprising that Microsoft is courting Linux developers with its Azure Platform-as-a-Service. Both Ubuntu and SUSE Linux are available and fully supported by Canonical and SUSE, respectively. CentOS is also an option, with support provided by OpenLogic.

“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,” said Sandy Gupta, general manager of the Open Solutions Group at Microsoft. Canonical CEO Jane Silber said “We’ve always kept open communication lines with Microsoft and it was clear from the outset that this partnership would be a great opportunity for both.”

SUSE, as a distribution, has a dedicated commitment toward being “a perfect guest,” and has a long history of working with VMware to affect that goal. SUSE also has a long-standing relationship with Microsoft, so support for SUSE on Azure is an entirely unsurprising development.

In a similar vein, Canonical has been working hard to market Ubuntu as “the leading operating system for the Cloud.” As such, it’s in their best interest to have Ubuntu on as many public cloud offerings as possible to prove their point.

It’s also worth noting that neither Canonical nor SUSE have their own platform-as-a-service offerings yet. I’ve got a hunch that SUSE, at least, has a public cloud initiative under way; and I wouldn’t be too surprised to learn that Canonical is working on one, too. Both Canonical and SUSE are working to improve the state of OpenStack, the emerging standard for open source private cloud infrastructure. But such work is a long-term effort, and in the meantime Amazon continues to dominate the cloud space while Microsoft, Red Hat, and others have already rolled out solutions.

Red Hat’s OpenShift platform-as-a-service has been available for about a year, and the source code was recently released as OpenShift Origins.

I asked Red Hat whether they had any plans to support Red Hat Enterprise Linux on Microsoft Azure, and got a very sanitized response:

Red Hat is working with a variety of leading service and cloud providers to enable access to open hybrid clouds and provide a breadth of Red Hat offerings to our customers both on- and off-premise. From virtualization to PaaS, Red Hat’s comprehensive portfolio offers our enterprise customers the consistency and quality they need for cloud consumption architectures. Red Hat and Microsoft have worked together in the past to provide interoperability on the hypervisor and guest operating systems and we will provide additional services and offerings as customer demands dictate.

It will be interesting to revisit Azure in a year or so to see how much traction Linux has gained there, as well as to evaluate which customers are running what kinds of work on the platform.