Microsoft launches support for Linux on Windows Azure

Microsoft’s cloud platform Windows Azure now supports Linux-based operating systems and languages such as Python and PHP. It includes IaaS capabilities to build hybrid cloud.

Windows Azure customers will be able to use Linux-based operating systems, open source tools and languages for the first time now that Microsoft Azure officially supports those offerings.

The move to support Linux and open source languages such as Python on Azure marks a significant push by Microsoft to compete against Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Rackspace and to improve its cloud service.

 “This will offer a credible alternative to Amazon Web Services for startups to run their LAMP based applications,” said Janakiram MSV founder of Get Cloud Ready, a cloud consultancy in India. “It’s a basic requirement to compete against Amazon Web Services.”

The company also combined infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) capabilities on Azure. In addition, Microsoft added support to Ubuntu and OpenSuse virtual machines, which makes the service open source friendly.

 “Public IaaS cloud computing is interesting for a wide range of customers for different reasons,” said Alessandro Perilli, research director at Gartner, Inc. based in Stamford, Conn.

 “To appeal an audience that includes web startups, large enterprises, and government organisations, you have to provide the freedom to provision both Linux and Windows VMs,” he said.

Through Azure, IT pros can deploy open source applications such as  WordPress, Joomla!, DotNetNuke, Umbraco, and Drupal to the cloud.

Microsoft has also updated the language libraries and added support for .NET, Java, PHP, Python, and Node.js.

The Linux service will go live when Microsoft releases previews of the new Windows Azure services this week [Thursday, June 7 at 1pm PDT or 9pm BST] at a live webinar called “Meet Windows Azure”.

Microsoft adds full IaaS offering

Windows Azure debuted as a foundational PaaS for its core installed base of .Net developers but has since expanded and extended its appeal, said James Staten, Forrester analyst in his blog.

However, until now, IT pros still needed to deploy a Windows machine, he said.

The new Azure features a combination of infrastructure and platform services to give users flexibility in their hybrid cloud projects.

The additional infrastructure capabilities means that Microsoft has finally joined the mainstream by adding a full  IaaS offering to allow customers to deploy just about anything, said Staten.

What the new capabilities in Windows Azure will bring to IT pros

  • Increased data centre capacity and ability to move workloads such as Microsoft SQL Server or Microsoft SharePoint to the cloud;
  • Ability to manage VPNs in Windows Azure as well as extend on-premises networks into the cloud;
  • Benefit from support for additional operating systems and OSS language libraries for building cloud applications;
  • Build applications on .NET, Node.js, and PHP while using common deployment techniques like Git and FTP; Users can also deploy open source applications like WordPress, Joomla!, DotNetNuke, Umbraco, and Drupal to the cloud;

The new IaaS service is clearly designed with at least surface knowledge of the market leaders, AWS, Rackspace and others, and takes advantage of Hyper-V as the virtualisation layer, he said.

Azure offers alternative to AWS

Technically, Windows Azure has supported any virtual machine that runs any operating systems since its launch in 2008, said Get Cloud Ready’s MSV.

Azure is based on Hyper-V, which can support Linux, but the news surprises some because Microsoft has “always considered Linux as their biggest competitor,” MSV said.

 Another expert welcomed the development saying it will help users adopt cloud computing.

“If Microsoft only supported its own OS platforms, this would exclude many potential organisations [that] have applications running on Linux - and running only some applications on Linux,” said Hamish Macarthur, founder of Macarthur Stroud International, a research firm. 

This would require that organisations split applications between different cloud suppliers, which may not be attractive, he added.

The expanded support shows that Microsoft is serious about selling hypervisor and tools to everyone, not just Windows shops, said Carl Brooks, analyst from The 451 Group.

 “It is also committed to a single product-list that bridges the services world and the on-prem IT shop,” he said.

Microsoft could build-in cloud-style functionality in every major product they release, Brooks said. “This is their plan -- any feature you see come out in their base product set – Server, Hyper-V, SQL, Office, it will be available at some point in their cloud services as well,” he added.


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