If you still think Microsoft is all about Windows, wake up. Corey Sanders, Microsoft’s director of Azure Compute, told me at Cloud Foundry Summit in Santa Clara, Calif., one in three Azure virtual machines (VM) run on Linux. On top of that, Sanders continued, over 60 percent of Azure Marketplace images are Linux-based.
As I like to say, “This is not Steve Ballmer’s Microsoft.” Of course, even Ballmer recently changed his open-source tune. He declared that he “loved” Microsoft porting SQL Server to Linux. These days, Microsoft loves Linux.
Nowhere do you see that more than in the cloud. Microsoft realized years ago that its future profits lay not on the Windows desktop, but in its Azure cloud and services. And, as Sanders said, Linux and open-source are “where the customers are.”
So, what choices does Microsoft offer corporate Linux users on Azure?
Well, first you can bring your own Linux distribution. If you really want to, say, run Arch Linux, a popular lightweight Linux, on Azure, you can. Indeed, there’s an unofficial guide on how to run Arch on Azure.
No matter what Linux you run, with one exception, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), Microsoft doesn’t charge upfront costs or termination fees for Linux VMs. You pay only for the resources you use.
To bring an unsupported Linux distro to Azure, you should follow Microsoft’s guidelines for non-endorsed Linux distributions. This is no job for an amateur, but users familiar with managing virtual machines (VM) on the cloud won’t find it challenging.
Most people, however, will want to run a supported Linux. Here are your current Linux on Azure choices.
CentOS: This is a RHEL clone. Azure supports CentOS 6.3+ and 7.x+. This comes with no support from Microsoft without an Azure support plan. This distro also has no Red Hat support. Some CentOS images are the creation of Rogue Wave Software, a software development tool company. Rogue Wave offers support contracts for CentOS on Azure.
To run CentOS successfully you’ll also need the drivers in Azure’s Linux Integration Services Version 4.1 for Hyper-V.
CoreOS: This newer Linux is designed from the ground-up for running containers. CoreOS is also a Kubernetes container management leader. Microsoft recently partnered with CoreOS on Draft, a tool to streamline application development on Kubernetes. Azure supports version of CoreOS 494.4.0 on up.