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June 7, 2012

Azure Changes Dress Code, Allows Tuxedos

Robert Gelber

Microsoft has released previews of upcoming services on their Azure cloud platform. The company seems focused on simplifying the transition of in-house resources to hybrid or external cloud deployments. Most notable is the ability for end users to create virtual machines with Linux images. The announcement will be live streamed later today at 1 p.m. PST.

Azure’s infrastructure will support CentOS 6.2, OpenSUSE 12.1, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server SP2 and Ubuntu 12.04 VM images. Microsoft has already updated their Azure site to reflect the compatibility. Other VM features include:

  • Virtual Hard Disks – Allowing end users to migrate data between on-site and cloud permises.
  • Workload Migration – Moving SQL Server, Sharepoint, Windows Server or Linux images to cloud services.
  • Common Virtualization Format – Microsoft has made the VHD file format freely available under an open specification promise.

Microsoft has had a somewhat up and down relationship with open source technologies. Steve Ballmer even went so far to call Linux a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches” during an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times back in 2001. Since then, the company has eased its stance, warming up to industry collaboration and preaching an open culture. The availability of Linux distributions on Azure further validates this direction.

Beyond adding Linux support, Azure will introduce a number of value-added services. The Azure Virtual Network allows for creation and management of virtual private networks within the platform. Topology, IP addressing, routing tables and security policies can be configured by the end user. The service also conforms to the IPSec protocol, allowing Azure to build secure connections to private corporate VPNs.

The platform also adds support for websites. Azure will accept .NET, Node.js, and PHP as well as Git and FTP. Continuing with their commitment, Microsoft is allowing web developers to take advantage of open source website applications including, DotNetNuke, Umbraco, Drupal, Joomla!, and WordPress.

An updated Azure SDK has added command line functionality for Windows and Mac users as well as adding updated support for PHP, Java, .NET and Python.

Along with the noted updates, Microsoft is increasing Azure’s footprint. The cloud service will be available in 48 additional countries, accepting 19 different currencies. Expansion will be completed later this month and will open availability to Russia, Taiwan, Egypt, Turkey, South Korea and others.

Microsoft is upping the ante of their cloud game with an array of new features and expanded operations. How these offerings will stand up compared to HP’s and IBM’s services is still unknown.