Open Source Still Key as Windows Azure Platform Goes General Availability
Our mission here at OpenLogic is to promote healthy open source growth and adoption in enterprises, and it is very important to us for these endeavors to respect the open source communities. It has been about a year since we started collaborating with Microsoft to provide the CentOS image for Windows Azure. During that time, there have been the expected conversations concerning Microsoft and its relationship with open source. In a previous article, Microsoft Embracing Openness with Windows Azure, I shared my thoughts about how the Windows Azure teams were embracing open source. Now, let's look at how things stand since Windows Azure has reached General Availability.1
1. Respected open source providers engaged in providing Linux images
OpenLogic's involvement in open source goes back well over a decade, and has always recognized that choice is a key component to the value of open source. That choice is also represented in the Windows Azure gallery by the participation of Canonical and SUSE in providing other common Linux distributions on the platform. Having a choice of well-supported Linux options gives users the power to make the best decisions for their organization.
2. Linux kernel drivers and modifications contributed to the community
Almost all hardware needs drivers to function properly when used by a Linux OS. This usually means that drivers need to be regularly added and updated as part of the kernel development to allow Linux to be widely adopted on many different platforms. Windows Azure is no exception, and Microsoft has provided the open source drivers needed for Linux to run on the platform into the kernel development stream. Those drivers are now available in the general kernel build packages as of CentOS 6.4.
3. Windows Azure Agent is open source and available on Github
Cloud platforms are fast at provisioning instances because they do not have to do a full OS install. They begin with a base pre-installed image. To configure that image for an individual instance, Windows Azure uses an agent to accept provisioning commands. That agent is open source and available under Apache 2.0 on Github.2
4. Client tools for interacting platform are open source
Microsoft has open sourced many client libraries and SDKs for interacting with the Windows Azure platform through PowerShell, command-line, and programmatic access. These communities are hosted on Github3, are very active, and include libraries useful for everyone, not just those interested in the Linux images.
5. Users are not locked into one of the major distributions
While the instructions are typically specific to the major distributions, experienced Linux hackers have all the information needed to take any distribution and run their own flavor. Having three major variants supported helps cover many of the variations that users will encounter.
6. Localized patch servers provide quick updates and save bandwidth costs
All of the Linux image providers are hosting local patch servers in each Windows Azure data center. This helps end users get updates quickly and save bandwidth costs over external calls to existing mirrors outside the data center.
Windows Azure and involved collaborators continue to embrace open source and provide another outlet to expand the adoption of CentOS and other open software in the future. Open source remains an invaluable key to the ever-evolving cloud computing landscape.
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Eric Weidner is Senior Development Manager and Co-Founder of OpenLogic. Trained as a mechanical engineer, Eric began his career as a product design engineer and project manager with a small engineering consulting firm where he pioneered the use of emerging web technologies to improve communications with both clients and team members during the project life cycle. He had so much fun that he left CAD systems behind and jumped fulltime into Java and J2EE development. These days, he grooves on the myriad ways that open source projects (and people) can be made to play nicely together.
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