Microsoft reluctantly bows to Linux users

Microsoft reluctantly bows to Linux users

Summary: Why will Microsoft be releasing a persistent virtual machine feature on its Azure cloud platform so users can host Linux? Because that's what its customers want.


Cats & dogs, aka Linux and Microsoft, will work together on Azure.

Ace Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley swears she's not drinking. Microsoft really is getting ready to enable customers to make Linux and Windows virtual machines (VMs) persistent on Windows Azure, its public platform-as-a-service (PaaS) cloud service.

That Microsoft was going to enable users to set up persistent VMs on Azure came as no surprise. While Azure has persistent storage, its inability to keep a VM persistent has annoyed many people, and not just Linux server managers. I know several SharePoint and SQL Server administrators who've avoided Azure because of this lack. There are ways to hack your way around the lack of a persistent Azure VM, but they're not easy.

According to Foley's sources, Microsoft will launch a Community Technology Preview (CTP) test-build of the persistent VM capability in the spring of 2012. Microsoft itself has been close-mouthed about support for persistent VMs and supporting Linux on it in particular.

So why is Microsoft, ever so quietly and reluctantly doing this? Because its customers are demanding Linux support. Oh the irony!

For several years, starting with SUSE Linux, Microsoft has supported Linux on its Hyper-V virtual machine platform. Today, Microsoft also supports Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and CentOS. There were also rumors last summer that Microsoft would support Debian and Ubuntu on Hyper-V, but nothing has come of that. Microsoft wasn't supporting Linux then because it loved Linux. It did this because its customers demanded Linux server support and now its customers are once more pushing Microsoft into supporting Linux, this time on the cloud.

Now, Microsoft's business customers are demanding that same VM support on the cloud and Microsoft will be giving it to them. As Foley reported, "Running Linux on Azure has been a surprisingly big business-customer request." That doesn't surprise me. The Cloud Market analysis of operating systems on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) found that there were 6,556 Linux instance running compared to 1,120 Windows instances. By almost six to one, cloud users preferred Linux over Windows.

But, just because users want Linux doesn't mean that Microsoft will make it easy for them to get it. Instead, Linux users will need to provide their own Linux VM images. At this time, Azure only supports Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) images for its VMs. The new persistent VM support will be available as a Community Technology Preview (CTP) test-build in spring 2012.

If something goes wrong with Linux on Azure, I'm sure Microsoft will put the blame and support burden on the companies running Linux. That will be a mistake.

Microsoft's business customers are speaking, and they want Linux. If Microsoft doesn't deliver the goods, Amazon, Red Hat, and VMware, to name three of its cloud rivals, are already happy to fully support Linux users on the cloud.

Cat and dog image by hoangnam_nguyen, CC 2.0.

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Topics: Software, Emerging Tech, Hardware, Linux, Microsoft, Open Source, Operating Systems, Virtualization, Windows

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  • RE: Microsoft reluctantly bows to Linux users

    Are they only allowed to use Suse? That's a rhetorical question.<br>So what was all this indemnification stuff was about?
    • Only use SUSE?

      Hi, I have not heard about any limitations as to which Linux distro a customer uses. The customers are responsible for supplying the Linux image for their VMs (as far as I understand). MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
      • RE: Microsoft reluctantly bows to Linux users

        @Mary Jo Foley

        As far as I know, Microsoft did contribute drivers for hyper-v to the kernel. I actually upgraded a debian 6 (squeeze) instance running on hyper-v with a special kernel (2.6.35-hyper-v) to debian 7 (wheezy) with a stock 3.0.1 kernel, and even networking runs out of the box (without the need for a legacy network adapter).
  • Customers providing their own Linux VM images.

    So MS avoids distributing the Linux kernel and any accompanying userspace. No big surprise; I imagine that the last thing that MS would want to do would be to distribute any GPLv3 software.

    But anyway, customers probably already have their own VM images and would prefer to use them.
    • RE: Customers providing their own Linux VM images.

      @Zogg This BYO Linux VM image option will likely persist. In addition, I expect that Linux vendors such as Red Hat, SuSE and Canonical will make Hyper-V images (via downloads from their own web sites) available to their customers. However, in the future I would expect to see Microsoft partnerships with the likes of Attachmate (read SuSE), Red Hat and, perhaps, even Canonical where they both provide and are responsible for their own Linux VM images available on Azure. I believe that such partnerships will be necessary for Microsoft to compete with Amazon and other Cloud providers.<br><br>And due to Microsoft's patent issues with Linux (right or wrong), I would expect SuSE to be on-board first because of the existing partnership between Microsoft and Attachmate (SuSE's parent company). If Microsoft does not let up on the patent issues, Red Hat and Canonical may never come on-board. However, perhaps they can all agree to disagree.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • The first step is always the hardest....

        @Rabid Howler Monkey <br>Microsoft is preparing for the inevetiable, ditching it's OS, and adopting Linux as it's base OS, forking ala red hat, and putting an end to competition by using it's propritary "secret sauce", which would be all it's patented wares, along with the ability to use windows programs on linux.

        Winux anyone??
        sparkle farkle
  • This sounds like legacy iaas support for linux

    Hopefully these customers will eentually wise up, rearchitect for paas, and evolve off of linux over time. The 90's are over.
    Johnny Vegas
    • RE: Microsoft reluctantly bows to Linux users

      @Johnny Vegas

      The 90's are over. ... And the need for MCSEs.
    • RE: Microsoft reluctantly bows to Linux users

      @Johnny Vegas
      This is a stepping stone to get migrated away from linux servers.
      Loverock Davidson-
      • RE: Microsoft reluctantly bows to Linux users

        @Loverock Davidson- <br><br>That can't be the case. NO one uses Linux. <br>Is that the hobby OS you always speak of?<br>M$ won't allow a hobby OS on their platform, eh? The telnet port will be open.
      • RE: Microsoft reluctantly bows to Linux users

        @Loverock Davidson-
        Oh dear !
        You left your telnet port open [b] again ! [/b]
    • RE: Microsoft reluctantly bows to Linux users

      @Johnny Vegas

      Yes, the 90's are over. It's time to step up to the big-boy servers. In our enterprise we have thousands of servers. We use Linux and AIX for our core business functions (no, email and web browsing are NOT a core business functions). All of our Windows servers are virtualized on VMWare.
  • RE: Microsoft reluctantly bows to Linux users

    Microsoft will also learn that the customers expect things to work. I still get MS third party sales reps who say the funniest things like "we have 99.9% uptime" and they can't understand why I fall over laughing when I hear that - I guess they're not terribly good at arithmetic and can't figure out how long each machine is down for each day (or that a machine going down each day is not generally acceptable) ... But there's hope yet that MS will improve.
    • RE: Microsoft reluctantly bows to Linux users


      We deal with the same things... We have a reboot schedule for all of our Windows servers, and very few of them make it to the four week schedule. Some we have to reboot daily. Funny how our enterprise-critical servers (Linux and AIX) only have to be rebooted once every six months or so.
      • RE: Microsoft reluctantly bows to Linux users


        seems like you have the same problems as benched !!! by the sound of it for exactly the same reason....

        possibly dont spend so much time on ZD and read an IT book and actually learn something !!!

        If other people can routinely maintain MS systems to very high levels of up time, and you find you cannot (with the SAME products) that would be a reflection on your own abilities and choices and not the tools you use.

        You should consider these facts before you come on a site like this with the admission that "you are not that good at this kind of work".

        Then again, you might just be trying to ensure your employment, if you can convince your overlords (boss) that you are totally necessary to keep this system going you keep your job, if you are honest and actually get the system working correctly you would put yourself out of work.

        It's a common trick in big companies, but what losses is your company incurring due to your incompetence ?
      • RE: Microsoft reluctantly bows to Linux users

        @benched42 - Perhaps you should go hire an MCSE ... actually, MCITP (the MCSE qualification was retired almost 8 years ago). They'd be able to show you how to correctly configure your Windows boxes so that you only need to reboot them once a month after Patch Tuesday as part of a professionally engineered support lifecycle policy.
    • RE: Microsoft reluctantly bows to Linux users

      @zoroaster/benched42,<br><br>I'll admit, having to reboot windows servers because of a configuration change is a sore spot. However, rebooting windows servers because of performance degradation is unacceptable. In my experience (grain of salt...I know), I haven't seen alot of performance degradation that was caused by the OS. Have you guys done any due deligence at what is causing the issue?
      • RE: Microsoft reluctantly bows to Linux users


        In some cases, it's the application they are running - we have a lot of servers that are single-app servers that many users connect to in order to use that app. But typically it's Windows itself. We have many servers that are simply file/print servers with no other functions.... and they are on that schedule, and they rarely make it the month before a reboot is necessary.
      • RE: Microsoft reluctantly bows to Linux users


        In the case of file/print servers, what was the cause? (fragmented memory, cpu usage)
      • RE: Microsoft reluctantly bows to Linux users


        Ofcourse they have not done any due deligence, have a read of the reason for his systems going down !!!!

        "Ummmm, sometimes it's the application,,,, and sometimes it's windows itself"

        So his "in depth" study of the technical issues affecting his systems and networks is either the "application, or the Users or Windows".

        I guess if he had added sometimes "hardware" that would just about cover everything !!!.

        He is basically stating he does not have a clue what the problems are, and his only known remedy is to reboot the machine and hope for the best.

        I wonder if he understands that Windows keeps a log of all applications or function that misbehave, and you can look up the cause of the problem, and actually take specific measures to fix it.

        file servers and printer servers are two specifically different functions, in that case that machine is not running a single application, it is running the file server (big job) and it is running a print server (small job) but TWO different jobs, apart from the job of being on the network, (networks appls) permissions and rights management and so on.