That's right. Even on the Azure web site it says:
Use any OS.
Now, there still isn't (nor will there ever be, I would imagine) a Microsoft Linux. But to me, this is kind of a big deal. Of all the open source glad-handing and back-patting Microsoft has done, this one step says to the consumer (consumers of Azure), developers, and the whole of the Linux-verse:
Microsoft has accepted Linux as a "colleague".
No longer is Windows the teachers on the campus and Linux the janitor; they are equals.
Before those certificate-holding, flag-waving, bean-counting CFO/CTO/GTOs get their foreheads in a wrinkly bind -- I'm not talking about market share (nor ever will). I'm talking about respect. Microsoft has finally given the nod to every developer that has ever touched Linux, validating the hard (and often thankless) work they have done over the years.
What is also interesting about this is that it is, for the most part, a two-way street. Many of the Linux devotees I know and hold in high regard, no longer look at Microsoft as the evil empire they once were. Oh sure, they aren't perfect and some of the steps they take crush underfoot, many a wannabe and hope-to-be. But the current up and down of Microsoft support for Linux seems to be more "up" than "down". This two-way street offers quite a lot of benefit to both players. As Microsoft continues to grow their support for Linux (and open source), the open source community will begin to stop seeing the software behemoth as a plague and monster. And of course this addition of Linux to the Microsoft Cloud Platform is a huge step forward and could possibly help Linux become even a bigger player in the enterprise world. Two. Way. Street.
But will it?
I would imagine there will be plenty of developers to take advantage of the ability to develop cross-platform tools with the help of Azure. But what about the enterprise as a whole? Will they adopt various incarnations of virtualized Linux machines to serve as virtual desktops, web servers, database servers, etc? Only time will tell, but I would imagine -- should Microsoft take this one step further and actually advertise the incredible benefits gained by using Linux on their cloud platform -- Linux will, in fact, see some major love thanks to Azure.
Ten years ago, had you told me Microsoft would be offering this kind of support for the Linux operating system, I would have scoffed at your idea. Now? Not so much. I do believe the new Microsoft regime has taken a completely different stance on the open source operating system and will continue to give more and more attention to the operating system that has fought, tooth and nail, for every ounce of respect it could earn.
I don't tip my hat to Microsoft often, but this time I do. It's good to see a company -- one that has so often been referred to in many derogatory ways by the open source community -- continue to step up their game with open source. Let's hope it lasts.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.