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Microsoft Releases FreeBSD 10.3 Image in Azure Marketplace

Microsoft published its FreeBSD 10.3 server image in the Azure Marketplace this week, representing yet another open source milestone for the company.

Organizations can now quickly provision and run FreeBSD 10.3 as a virtual machine Hyper-V guest on Microsoft Azure infrastructure using this image. FreeBSD is an open source Unix-like server maintained by the FreeBSD Foundation, but this FreeBSD 10.3 image was created and is maintained by Microsoft with permission from the Foundation.

"Microsoft is the publisher of the FreeBSD image in the marketplace rather than the FreeBSD Foundation," explained Jason Anderson, a principal program manager for Microsoft's Open Source Technology Center, according to Microsoft's announcement.

Integration Services Efforts
Microsoft has regular internal process for supporting operating systems on Hyper-V. This Integration Services effort creates device drivers for the hosted open source operating systems that tap Hyper-V, such as the various Linux server distros, as well as FreeBSD. Michael Kelly, a principal program manager on Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise team, explained how Microsoft's Integration Services works:

Because each OS family has its own device driver model, these drivers must be specifically written for each OS family. So there are separate device drivers for Windows, Linux, and FreeBSD. This collection of device drivers (together with some user space daemons for Linux and FreeBSD) constitute the Integration Services. For Linux and FreeBSD, these are what we call Linux Integration Services (LIS) and FreeBSD Integration Services (BIS).

FreeBSD is somewhat different than Linux in that there's just one release. It doesn't fork like Linux distros. "This means that Microsoft can deliver the Integration Services components directly to the FreeBSD community and upon acceptance, are included directly into the latest release of the FreeBSD operating system," explained Anderson, in an October Microsoft blog post.

In the case of the FreeBSD 10.3 image for Azure, Anderson explained that Microsoft took control to ensure uptime for organizations and to contribute to the Foundation:

In order to ensure our customers have an enterprise SLA (service level agreement) for their FreeBSD VMs running in Azure, we took on the work of building, testing, releasing and maintaining the image in order to remove that burden from the Foundation. We will continue to partner closely with the Foundation as we make further investments in FreeBSD on Hyper-V and in Azure.

Microsoft built network and storage performance improvements into the FreeBSD 10.3 image. It also added an "Azure VM Guest Agent," which communicates between the virtual machine and the Azure Fabric to ease the provisioning process, Anderson explained. Microsoft's support engineers are available to provide technical support for FreeBSD 10.3 on Azure, he added.

Microsoft also has created "ports" of some older FreeBSD versions that will run on Hyper-V, but they may be less robust in terms of performance and stability, Anderson suggested. Microsoft's past FreeBSD work also includes Windows Server Hyper-V integration.

Other Open Source Azure News
In other open source Azure news, Microsoft announced late last month that the Azure Marketplace now houses a Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.8 "pay-as-you-go" image. It's designed to support Red Hat workloads on an hourly basis, along with paying Microsoft Azure Virtual Machine rates for Red Hat, according to Microsoft's description.

Microsoft has generally been embracing Linux of late as a business solution it can monetize, principally via its Azure compute infrastructure. Linux workloads on Azure infrastructure have been growing. Mark Russinovich, chief technical officer of Microsoft Azure, indicated earlier this year that "more than 25 percent of all virtual machines deployed in Azure are Linux-based, up from 20 percent just six months ago."

Microsoft also has integrated open source software into some of its products. For instance, this month Microsoft announced that the open source Apache Spark 1.6.1 was "generally available" for commercial use with Azure HDInsight, which is Microsoft's Big Data solution based on Hadoop technology. Apache Spark is an open source in-memory framework used for data analytics operations that's aimed at speeding up the querying process.

Microsoft also recently updated its Azure Redis Cache service, which is based on the open source Redis cache solution. The update includes a preview of an Azure Redis Cache import/export capability, which allows data to be migrated between cache instances. Microsoft also previewed the ability to upgrade from the Standard to the Premium service offering. In addition, PowerShell now can be used to run diagnostics on Azure Redis Cache.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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