Microsoft's Azure platform falls short for Linux

Microsoft's Azure platform falls short for Linux

Summary: Recently it was announced that Microsoft is going to support Linux on its Azure cloud platform. At first glance, this sounds great, right?

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TOPICS: Open Source
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Recently it was announced that Microsoft is going to support Linux on its Azure cloud platform. At first glance, this sounds great, right? Microsoft supporting Linux with its own software. We've heard in recent times of Microsoft providing code to the Linux kernel, and this is what they have been preparing for: to support Linux on Azure. It hasn't really been for the benefit of the open source community as some would like to think. In fact, there was some controversy regarding the code that Microsoft submitted to the Linux kernel, in that they were forced to do so after being caught using drivers that fall under the GPL (GNU General Public License). The code submitted for the kernel will ensure that Linux support is seamless on Azure.

But, this offering by Microsoft for Linux support on Azure comes up short, as one of the largest players in the corporate GNU/Linux world has its distributions scratched from Microsoft's list, and that is of Red Hat. If you look at the list of distributions that Microsoft is supporting, it includes:

Suse Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP2 OpenSuse 12.01 CentOS 6.2 Ubuntu 12.04

You will probably notice that Red Hat Enterprise and Fedora, two very large and popular distributions that are released by Red Hat, are not mentioned anywhere. Yet CentOS is, which is based on Red Hat Enterprise but is assembled by a third party and released at no cost. While I can somewhat understand why Fedora may not be included (because it's generally thought of a cutting edge distribution that may contain more bugs and be more suited to the desktop over the server), Red Hat Enterprise is rock solid in the business world and has been for many years. What's going on here, and why in the world would Microsoft exclude them? Many rumours are circulating about that it has been done intentionally because Red Hat is a direct competitor to Microsoft in corporate software. The theory is that Microsoft is trying to steer Azure users away from Red Hat.

I think this will end up backfiring on Microsoft. Since Red Hat Enterprise and Fedora are two of the most common distributions used, Microsoft is shutting the door on potential customers. Maybe they are not concerned with this, but if Microsoft had good intentions of supporting open source that everybody says they just "love" so much, then they should support the more popularly used distributions. But, it is what it is, and thankfully there are alternatives that provide cloud services so ultimately the customers have a choice to choose which platform will run the software they choose.

Overall though, I don't think there is really any reason to worry in the least bit. Red Hat doesn't seem to be too concerned either. Red Hat is more focused on its own cloud platform, OpenShift. I'm sure more details and changes will surface as these services mature.

Topic: Open Source

Chris Clay

About Chris Clay

After administering Linux and Windows for over 17 years in multiple environments, my focus of this blog is to document my adventures in both operating systems to compare the two against each other. Past and present experiences have shown me that Linux can replace Windows and succeed in a vast variety of environments. Linux has proven itself many times over in the datacentre and is more than capable for the desktop.

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9 comments
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  • @apexwm

    Did you ask Microsoft and Red Hat why RHEL is not currently supported? Was it Red Hat's choice or not? Is support coming later?

    Could you not even be bothered to Google it and link to some quotes? You'd have found that Red Hat had a stand at this week's Microsoft TechEd conference and had said in a statement:

    "Red Hat and Microsoft have worked together in the past to provide interoperability on the hypervisor and guest operating systems and we will provide additional services and offerings as customer demands dictate."

    By the way, as a professional journalist, my opinion is that your headline is misleading. If it had provided a reasonable guide to the content of your post (eg "Azure fails to support Red Hat", or whatever), I wouldn't have bothered reading it. It's extremely disappointing.
    Jack Schofield
  • Jack :

    The published quote you mentioned by Red Hat doesn't give any indication of WHY RHEL was not offered on Azure. If you know of such information on WHY this was done, please do us a favor and inform us all. Many (if not all) of the posts found on Google or whatever search on this subject, state what I've said here.

    No matter what the reason, the fact that RHEL is not a supported OS for Azure is the disappointing part, and it is a shortcoming for Azure and Linux customers as a whole, in my opinion. RHEL is just one of several very popular Linux distributions that Azure could support, but it doesn't. Ironically, RHEL was tested on Azure last year, but it mysteriously didn't show up on Microsoft's current offerings. Could it be that Microsoft will do anything possible to NOT give Red Hat any money? By supporting CentOS they are doing just that, supporting a Red Hat clone rather than letting Red Hat get paid for an official license. As always, I'm skeptical when Microsoft makes strange moves like this. There is a reason, but there is no official statement, which leaves us left with drawing our own conclusions.
    Chris_Clay
  • I know everybody loves a good bash at Microsoft ,but really not fair here. You are not limited to those distros, you can upload your own VHD (Virtual disk) and are not limited to use the pre-created templates provided, already I have installed "non-supported" OSes into the AZURE cloud without an issue. In addition the Linux AZURE SDK has been fully open sourced by microsoft on GitHub.
    eatredmeatfeelgood@...
  • chnetiangemalc :

    Providing the templates, especially for the top 5 business distributions or so, would seem in best interest unless there was a specific reason to exclude a single distribution, which is basically my point. With that said, thanks for the additional feedback and input.
    Chris_Clay
  • I really hate participating in these discussions, particularly when it's about getting someone – which is obviously always the case when Microsoft is involved. Speculation can be fun, but the belief that everything has some secret, sinister meaning, is very destructive.

    So, I make it very clear that this is just wild speculation on my part. I know nothing about the situation between Microsoft and RedHat; is it possible that Microsoft decided to only support the newest version of RHEL, the same way it does with all the other distros? It doesn't support older versions of Ubuntu either, for instance. Only 12.04. And that makes sense. Today, precisely a week after this article was published, RHEL 6.3 was released. If it is indeed true, that Microsoft and RedHat has collaborated on these things in the past, surely, they will have known this. A very good reason to postpone the support, in my opinion. RHEL 6.3 has been available for several hours as I write this; let's give Microsoft at least a few days before we start panicing?

    Your article will be available on Google and others. So, even if Microsoft adds support for RHEL 6.3 in the very near future, you're going to tell people it's not supported. That's much more harmful to the GNU+Linux community, than it is to Microsoft. I'm guessing that was probably not your intention. I wish people who write these articles would at least try to substantiate their claims.
    anonymous
  • as of today, Azure still doesn't support RedHat... which is just strange. RH is the number 1 server distro, and apparently the one that MS customers have been asking for.

    Still, maybe RH's cloud offering has something to do with it: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/05/04/redhat_openshift_cloudforms/

    Mind you, seeing as they do support CentOS, just run your RedHat programs on that, but still buy a RH support licence - and maybe RH will be persuaded that their licence should give you support for running your stuff on CentOS after all.
    anonymous
  • @apexwm

    > Many (if not all) of the posts found on Google or whatever
    > search on this subject, state what I've said here.

    Repeating ignorant (but uncredited) speculation is really no excuse for not making sense, and it doesn't justify the misleading headline.

    @Jo-Erlend Schinstad via Facebook

    > Your article will be available on Google and others. So, even if Microsoft
    > adds support for RHEL 6.3 in the very near future, you're going to tell
    > people it's not supported. That's much more harmful to the GNU+Linux
    > community, than it is to Microsoft. I'm guessing that was probably not
    > your intention. I wish people who write these articles would at least try
    > to substantiate their claims.

    A good point, well put.

    @Andy Bolstridge via Facebook

    > Still, maybe RH's cloud offering has something to do with it

    Yes, I wondered about that. Red Hat claims it has a multi-vendor cloud offering but it doesn't support Windows. Maybe there have been discussions in back rooms about scratching each others' backs, or whatever. But that's also speculation The truth is: we just don't know.

    It doesn't look like a technical issue, because CentOS is supported.

    Either way, Microsoft isn't going to support RHEL on Azure without Red Hat's involvement, and Red Hat isn't going to do it without Microsoft's support. Either or both firms could be responsible for RHEL's omission.

    As I said at the beginning, an honest post would have pointed this out under an accurate headline. As it is, the headline is tosh, and in my not noticeably humble opinion, @apexwm should be ashamed of himself. I would be.
    Jack Schofield
  • Jack :

    "As I said at the beginning, an honest post would have pointed this out under an accurate headline. As it is, the headline is tosh, and in my not noticeably humble opinion, @apexwm should be ashamed of himself. I would be."

    RHEL = Linux, and, RHEL not supported for Azure = Azure falling short for Linux. I'm not sure how much clearer this could be. As some readers pointed out, at least there is a workaround if the customer has the resources to do so.

    If I'm ashamed of anything, it's for responding to your comment, which as usual contains very little substance related to the subject or content of the post.
    Chris_Clay
  • So your assumption is that Microsoft is singling Red Hat out for exclusion, but I expect if you had evidence for that view over the possibility that it's Red Hat choosing to not yet support Azure that you would have included it? What was your experience of spinning up an Azure VM and installing RHEL to run on Azure? Did the platform fall short in action in some way?
    MB
    Simon Bisson and Mary Branscombe