Linux and Azure
Linux users will have something to cheer about vis-à-vis Microsoft Cloud. While Microsoft has been pushing many changes to its software and cloud operations, it has not done much, if anything, about Linux. (Why should it?) But even so, news has come that Microsoft is poised to enable customers to make virtual machines (VMs) persistent on Windows Azure,
Linux virtual machines on Azure? Really? Yes apparently so. This means that customers who want to run Windows or Linux without losing state control in VMs on the Azure cloud platform will be able to do so. Coming this spring, Microsoft is planning to launch a Community Technology Preview (CTP) test-build of the persistent VM capability.
The new persistent VM support also will allow customers to run SQL Server or SharePoint Server in VMs, as well. And it will enable customers to more easily move existing apps to the Azure platform.
The VM role of Azure
Windows Azure already has support for a VM role, but Microsoft admits that it’s not very useful at the moment. The reason is that the current VM role is not stable, meaning that when rebooted or randomly recycled by the Azure platform the VM loses any data stored. So for applications that rely on the machine name or files/config that constitute a reliable “state” are not stored in SQL Azure, this is a problem. That also explains why users wouldn’t try running SharePoint on the current Azure VM role…it is not stable.
But for its part, Microsoft has been balking at customer requests to add persistent VMs to Azure. Microsoft may have been hoping to get development customers to create Azure apps from scratch instead. This would be good except, if the VM foundation is unstable, developers only see this as too much effort when the VM specification should be developed and deployed at the Microsoft level, not some third party.
So the lack of the ability to host apps like SharePoint and other third-party business applications with persistence was a deal breaker for a number of business users who were unwilling to consider Azure until Microsoft added this support.
Linux and Azure
One of the things that Microsoft has learned is that Linux followers don’t want to give up that OS. But at the same time using cloud services has been something that they have wanted for a while. And they like the idea of putting a Linux VM on Azure as just the right kind of software platform they have been waiting for. In other words, running Linux on Azure has been a surprisingly big business-customer request; something of an eye opener.
So sometime in March-April 2012, Microsoft will be launching persistent VM CTP, thereby making Linux available on Azure. However,
Microsoft won’t be supporting Linux once it launches. However, it will be up to customers to provide uploads of their own Linux images. Instead, Microsoft plans to tout the persistent VM capability on Azure as providing users with an easy on-ramp to its cloud platform, as they can start with the apps they already have and host them without a lot of reworking.
Microsoft and VMware and other Support
What virtualization stack will be available for VM support? Microsoft says that it may soon support the Ubuntu and Debian Linux distros as well as CentOS, Red Hat, and SuSE. Part of the attraction for Linux has come from Europe. Debian and Ubuntu appear to be big items for developers there.
Make no mistake, Microsoft’s love for Linux is designed to stop VMware from becoming the default virtualization and management standard for Linux in the cloud. As it is several Linux distros can be installed on VMware hypervisors. Microsoft apparently is not willing to give up this round to another VM competitor.