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Microsoft Readying Linux Hosting in its Azure Cloud?

All About Microsoft's Mary Jo Foley released a report today discussing a planned Microsoft move to allow customers to host Linux servers on its Windows Azure cloud service.

The report cited several sources who said customers will be able to run Linux servers on the Azure service starting this spring with a community technology preview (CTP). Microsoft will also allow customers to host SQL Server and SharePoint Server on Azure, according to the report.

Microsoft will enable this by letting customers make virtual machines (VMs) persistent on Azure. Until now, Microsoft has spurned customer requests to offer persistent VMs on Azure, instead trying to convince them to build their own applications onto the cloud service.

But Microsoft appears to be caving because customers are reticent to use Azure unless they can host their existing applications with persistence, key to running them reliably and without losing state, the report noted.

Furthermore, most popular cloud service providers, including Amazon Web Services and Rackspace, allow customers to run both Linux and Windows servers. Azure is a non-starter for enterprise customers looking to run both Linux and Windows in the cloud. A spokeswoman for Microsoft said the company "does not comment on rumors and speculation."

Adding Linux to Azure would be a big step. Even though Redmond has warmed up to the open source community, Linux servers are still a major competitive threat to the Windows Server franchise. Yet the move is not without precedent: Microsoft and Novell (now SuSE) inked a pact over five years ago to support SuSE Linux, and more recently Microsoft hooked up with Red Hat to support Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Microsoft last month announced extended open source support for Azure with the release of a CTP of Hadoop on Azure, a software development kit (SDK) for Node.js and a new JavaScript plug-in for developers using tooling based on Eclipse.

While Microsoft may be preparing to make it possible for shops to run their Linux instances on Azure, there does not appear to be any plans by the company to support the popular open source platform. Users will have to deploy their own Linux servers atop of Azure.

The CTP is scheduled for release this spring. It is uncertain when Microsoft hopes to commercially roll out the persistence capability. Many customers are still waiting for the release of Microsoft's VM Role, which is in beta and will let users run a custom Windows Server 2008 R2 image on Azure.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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