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Microsoft Puts Open Source RHEL on Azure

Microsoft newfound embrace of open source took another step this week with the addition of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) images in the Azure Marketplace.

In addition, Microsoft announced this week that its Azure Container Service preview, based on collaborative work with open source software companies Docker and Mesosphere, is now available broadly for testing purposes. Microsoft conceives of this service as a means for provisioning "clusters of Azure Virtual Machines onto which containerized applications can be deployed, orchestrated and managed."

RHEL Support
Images for RHEL versions 6.7 and 7.2 can be downloaded this week from the Azure Marketplace. The Marketplace is a repository for software that's capable of running on virtual machines in Azure datacenters. The new RHEL images are available in all Azure service regions except for China. They aren't available for U.S. government customers, though.

Microsoft had previously collaborated with Red Hat on Hyper-V hypervisor integration, but it's lately formed a much deeper partnership with its Linux-based rival, joining the Red Hat Certified Cloud and Service Provider Program. Red Hat team members even moved onto Microsoft's Redmond campus to assure better integrated products. And it's not just one way collaboration on Azure. Red Hat is using open source Microsoft .NET technology in its OpenShift cloud platform, as well as in its Atomic Host container solution, for instance.

The teamwork between the two companies even extends to the support that gets offered to organizations.

"We offer the best enterprise-grade support of the public cloud, by offering a fully integrated support experience with co-located Red Hat and Microsoft support engineers sitting side-by-side to help you when you need it," said Corey Sanders, Microsoft director of program management for Azure, in Microsoft's announcement. He added that buying Red Hat subscriptions through the Azure Marketplace provides "direct access to the Red Hat customer portal."

"This availability also marks the first instance of Red Hat and Microsoft's integrated support, a unique offering in the IT world, offering a seamless experience for customers seeking to engage with industry-leading support teams to address technical challenges," Red Hat noted, in its announcement.

Open Source Collaborations
Sanders offered up a few more instances of Microsoft's embrace of open source software. He said that "more than 60 percent" of the Azure Marketplace images now are Linux based. Microsoft has learned how to monetize Linux on Azure. That point was noted last year by Microsoft Technical Fellow Jeffrey Snover, who said back then that "in the context of Azure, Microsoft makes more money if you have 10 installations of Linux than if you have two instances of Windows."

Microsoft has begun certifying Bitnami Linux images for the Azure Marketplace, Sanders noted. Bitnami makes a software server stack that's typically used for running production apps and dev testing. That effort sprung from earlier collaborations with Microsoft Open Technologies, a spin-off organization focused on open source software integration. Microsoft announced a reintegration of its Open Technologies subsidiary back into the company in April of last year. Sanders said that the new Bitnami images would get certified "over the next few months."

Microsoft is even using some open source software in its cloud products, Sanders noted. He listed the following examples:

He also noted Microsoft's partnerships with various open source software companies, such as Cloudera, Datastax, Hortonworks and MariaDB.

Microsoft's Linux love still may elicit skeptical views, but the company has been puffing up Azure to be a Linux-friendly environment for a while now. And that includes on the training side, too. In December, Microsoft established a certification program to that end in collaboration with the Linux Foundation.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.