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Microsoft (hearts) Linux, for Azure's sake

Joab Jackson | Oct. 21, 2014
Microsoft now loves Linux.

Microsoft now loves Linux.

This was the message from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, standing in front of an image that read "Microsoft [heart symbol] Linux," during a Monday webcast to announce a number of services it had added to its Azure cloud, including the Cloudera Hadoop package and the CoreOS Linux distribution.

In addition, the company launched a marketplace portal, now in preview mode, designed to make it easier for customers to procure and manage their cloud operations.

Microsoft is also planning to release an Azure appliance, in conjunction with Dell, that will allow organizations to run hybrid clouds where they can easily move operations between Microsoft's Azure cloud and their own in-house version.

The declaration of affection for Linux indicates a growing acceptance of software that wasn't created at Microsoft, at least for the sake of making its Azure cloud platform as comprehensive as possible.

For decades, the company tied most of its new products and innovations to its Windows platform, and saw other OSes, such as Linux, as a competitive threat. Former CEO Steve Ballmer once infamously called Linux a cancer.

This animosity may be evaporating as Microsoft is finding that customers want cloud services that incorporate software from other sources in addition to Microsoft. About 20 percent of the workloads run on Azure are based on Linux, Nadella admitted.

Now, the company considers its newest competitors to be the cloud services offered by Amazon and Google.

Nadella said that by early 2015, Azure will be operational in 19 regions around the world, which will provide more local coverage than either Google or Amazon.

He also noted that the company is investing more than $4.5 billion in data centers, which by Microsoft's estimation is twice as much as Amazon's investments and six times as much as Google's.

To compete, Microsoft has been adding widely-used third party software packages to Azure at a rapid clip. Nadella noted that Azure now supports all the major data integration stacks, such as those from Oracle and IBM, as well as major new entrants such as MongoDB and Hadoop.

The results seem to be paying off. Today Azure is generating about $4.48 billion in annual revenue for Microsoft, and we are "still at the early days," of cloud computing, Nadella said.

The service attracts about 10,000 new customers per week. About 2 million developers have signed on to Visual studio online since its launch. The service runs about 1.2 million SQL databases.

CoreOS is now actually the fifth Linux distribution that Azure offers, joining Ubuntu, CentOS, OpenSuse, and Oracle Linux (a variant of Red Hat Enterprise Linux). Customers can also package their own Linux distributions to run in Azure.

 

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