Ubuntu, CentOS, & SUSE Linux comes to Windows Azure

Linux and Windows usually go-together like cats and dogs, but now four of the major Linux distributions - CentOS, openSUSE, SUSE Linux, and Ubuntu - are available on Microsoft's Azure cloud services.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Welcome to Windows Azure Linux!

Welcome to Windows Azure Linux!

Linux and Windows are popularly thought of to get along like a bad tempered Pekingese dog and an ill-mannered Siamese cat. Things have changed though since Bill Gates said that "The GPL (General Public License, Linux's license] … makes it impossible for a commercial company to use any of that work or build on any of that work." Things have changed. Now, Microsoft has announced that its Azure cloud will support persistent VMs which will enable users to run Linux distributions. These distros are: openSUSE 12.1, CentOS 6.2, Ubuntu 12.04 and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 11 SP2.

This development isn't as surprising as it may sound. As ace Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley reported earlier this year, "Running Linux on Azure has been a surprisingly big business-customer request." A quick look at the Cloud Market analysis of operating systems on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) on June 7th found that there over 18-thousand Ubuntu Linux instances currently running and about 10-thousand otherwise unidentified Linux instances. In contrast, there were only 33-hundred Windows instances. It's as plain as the nose on your face: businesses want Linux servers on the cloud.

In addition, Microsoft has been working with Novell, SUSE's predecessor company, on Windows and Linux network and virtualization integration since 2006. More recently, SUSE and Microsoft have been working on Linux and Hyper-V integration. Making it possible to run openSUSE, SUSE's community distribution, and SLES on Azure was the natural next move.

It comes as no surprise then that SUSE seems to have the most mature offering for its Linux on Azure. Besides offering simple instances of SLES, users can use SUSE Studio, SUSE's build your own virtual server application Web-based service to build their own cloud-ready applications and automatically launch them on Windows Azure.

SUSE is also including automatic maintenance that keeps SLES up-to-date on the most current security patches, bug fixes and new features on Azure. In addition, SUSE is backing SLES on Azure with its usual range of support options In a statement, Sandy Gupta, general manager of the Open Solutions Group at Microsoft, said "Through our continued engagement on technical interoperability with SUSE, we look forward to delivering core value to those running mission-critical, mixed-source IT environments from the data center and into the cloud."

As for Ubuntu, Paul Oh, Canonical's business development director wrote, "Canonical and Microsoft worked together to ensure that Ubuntu, tested, certified and enterprise ready from the start." Oh continued, "During the current Spring Release of Windows Azure, you can launch Ubuntu images directly from the Windows Azure Gallery. The Windows Azure gallery currently contains Ubuntu Server 12.04 LTS and support is available directly from Canonical. In the Fall Release of Windows Azure you will be able to buy support directly from the Windows Azure Gallery."

CentOS, a Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) clone, will also be available on Azure. You will be able to get support for CentOS on Azure from OpenLogic, an open-source support company.

Want to try it for yourself? Microsoft is presently offering a 90-day free trial of Azure. In addition, during the preview period Microsoft will offer discounted hourly rates for Linux Virtual Machines ranging from $0.013 per hour up to $0.64 per hour depending on the instance size.

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