Microsoft, Red Hat Collaborate To Put Linux on Azure

Microsoft on Wednesday announced a partnership with leading Linux provider Red Hat, signaling a major advancement of its relationship with the open source community.

The deal, which Microsoft described as its deepest partnership with another major enterprise infrastructure player to date, aims to ensure that the two companies' operating systems and cloud platforms interoperate.

Under the deal's terms, a Red Hat engineering team will move to Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., headquarters to provide joint technical support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) workloads running in the Microsoft Azure public cloud and on its hybrid cloud offerings. The pact also calls for applications developed in the Microsoft .NET Framework language to run on RHEL, OpenShift and the new Red Hat Atomic Host container platform.

"We don't do this depth and level of support with any other partner at this point," said Paul Cormier, Red Hat's president of products and technologies, during a Web conference announcing the pact. "It's a much more comprehensive partnership than we have with any of our other public cloud providers. The collocation of our support teams is really a significant differentiator for our enterprise customers."

The other differentiator is that Windows and RHEL are the most widely deployed enterprise server platforms, he said. Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's executive vice president of Cloud and Enterprise who was on the webcast with Cormier, agreed. "I am not aware of us doing anything like this with any other partner before," Guthrie said.

The deal is especially noteworthy because Microsoft and Red Hat once had nothing but disdain for each other. "There wasn't much trust there," Cormier said flatly.

Specifically, there are five components that the two companies hope to deliver through their partnership:

  • Combined support services for hybrid cloud, including Red Hat products and on-premises customer environments running on Azure. "What this means is, as we bring our solutions together to solve customers' real problems, we need to do that in such a way that we can really give enterprise-class support that our customers want, need and expect," Cormier said. To accomplish this, he said Red Hat will collocate its engineers with Microsoft's so when issues arise regarding integration points, their respective engineers will work together to address them.

  • Red Hat will use the newly open-sourced .NET technologies into its platforms, including RHEL, its OpenShift cloud PaaS offering, and its Red Hat Atomic Host container offering. This will let developers build applications that include .NET services, which could be more appealing now that Microsoft has open-sourced the framework. "I think this will give us greater interoperability across the technologies and really start to give our customers the heterogeneous world that they really want," Cormier said.

  • Subscriptions to Red Hat products supported on Azure and Windows will be supported by Red Hat the same way that they are supported when running in traditional enterprise environments. Red Hat will also expand cooperation and work on Windows being supported on Red Hat products, including RHEL, OpenStack and OpenShift.

  • Red Hat's systems management offering CloudForms will include management of workloads on Azure. This should provide a common management pane for physical workloads and private cloud environments, including its OpenStack distribution and OpenShift.

  • Microsoft is joining the Red Hat Certified Cloud and Service Provider Program (CCSP) to provide certified support for all of its products in Azure. With Microsoft joining the CCSP, Guthrie said, "Red Hat subscriptions will become portable to Microsoft Azure, with full Red Hat cloud access, enabling a consistent application platform on and off premises."

The two companies' teams will start their collocation in Redmond over the next few weeks, Guthrie said. Over time, they may send teams to other locations, as well. In the coming months, Guthrie said the two companies will let customers sign up and pay for licenses of Red Hat products on Azure on a usage basis.

"You'll see the integration of the Red Hat CloudForms offering with both Azure and our System Center VMM product that will enable consistent workload management in a hybrid way," Guthrie said. "We'll also enable Red Hat enterprise Linux Atomic Host on Azure and basically deliver a supported and certified small footprint container host that customers can use for enterprise Linux containers."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.