Microsoft launches its big data service running on Linux

Welcome to Satya Nadella's Microsoft. Gone are the days when Microsoft treated Linux like a cancer.

Microsoft Linux

Earlier this month, Microsoft shocked us all with the announcement that they built  a cross-platform modular operating system for data center networking built on Linux. Though it’s far from a ‘regular’ Linux distro, it does show that even a giant like Microsoft (MSFT) needs Linux.

Now, the company has shocked us again. Microsoft has partnered with Hortonworks and Canonical to launch a big data solution – Azure HDInsight -- which is a Hadoop managed service in the cloud. It’s powered by open source technologies. And they are offering it with Linux.

Hortonworks and Microsoft are long time strategic partners and there is no surprise that HDInsight is based on Hortonworks Data Platform. The two companies already work together to bring the benefits of Apache Hadoop to Windows.

Audrey Ng of Hortonworks said, “Microsoft has worked along with Hortonworks in the community to contribute towards Apache Hadoop and related projects, including Apache Ambari.”

Why Ubuntu and not RHEL?

Because the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Red Hat is Microsoft’s arch rival in the server/cloud space. Microsoft, while embracing Linux, is keeping Red Hat out of their ecosystem. So MSFT has strategically picked Red Hat’s Linux rival Canonical as its partner. The two companies already work together closely on various fronts, including Microsoft Azure. As a result of this partnership and rivalry, Microsoft has picked Ubuntu for its first Linux-based Azure offering.

John Zannos, Canonical's VP of Cloud Alliances and Ecosystem said in a blog post, “Microsoft and Canonical are committed to meeting customer needs as the industry moves to adopt analytics and cloud architectures for scale and performance. Over the last year Microsoft has been an active proponent of open source software technologies, and we at Canonical are delighted to be Microsoft’s Linux of choice in Azure and now HDInsight.”

Microsoft is not supporting Linux out of altruism or love, they are supporting it for economic reasons. Zannos added, “Today, more than 20 percent of virtual machines on Azure are Linux and VM Depot has more than 1,000 Linux images. The vast majority of these images are Ubuntu.”

Why Linux and not Windows?

MSFT already has a Windows-based Azure HDInsight, so why do they need to offer Linux and cannibalize their Windows market?

Because market.

Customers run heterogamous environments. More and more customers are moving to sustainable, vendor neutral technologies (read Linux and open source) and the ‘new’ Microsoft doesn’t want to lose that market.

John Zannos, Canonical's VP of Cloud Alliances and Ecosystem said in a blog post, “Every substantial institution will use both Windows and Linux and wants the flexibility to choose the right platform for the workload. Having that choice in platform is very important to the marketplace.”

So here we see a ‘new’ Microsoft that is not Windows obsessed. Nadella’s Microsoft will offer anything that its customers want, even if that ‘anything’ is Linux.

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