by Swapnil Bhartiya

Microsoft has built a Linux-based operating system

Sep 18, 2015
Cloud ComputingData CenterLinux

Don't get too excited; it's not going to power the next Windows....

Pigs haven’t taken flight; aliens haven’t invaded; hell hasn’t frozen over. But… Microsoft has created an OS powered by Linux. No, this is not The Onion; it’s true.

Microsoft has built an operating system called Azure Cloud Switch (ACS). As Kamala Subramaniam, Principal Architect, Azure Networking explains on the company blog, “It is a cross-platform modular operating system for data center networking built on Linux.”

This is not a typical consumer-grade operating system; it’s meant to serve a very specific purpose.

There are many open source software defined, or virtualized networking switches available, but Microsoft didn’t find what they were looking for and ended up creating its own.

Subramanian wrote:

Traditional switch software is built for several customers with several scenarios and feature requests. Since the ACS focuses on feature development based on Microsoft priorities, it has a Lean Stack. The thin software stack focuses on software needed for our Datacenter Networks and strives to fix, test and remediate network device software bugs faster than the current run rate.
ACS allows us to debug, fix, and test software bugs much faster. It also allows us the flexibility to scale down the software and develop features that are required for our datacenter and our networking needs.

That’s where Microsoft also recognizes the true value of openness and standards. Subramanian added, “ACS believes in the power of Open Networking. ACS together with the open, standardized SAI interface allows us to exploit new hardware faster and enables us to ride the tide of ASIC innovation while simultaneously being able to operate on multiple platforms.”

And the gem from the blog post was admiration for Linux: “Running on Linux, ACS is able to make use of its vibrant ecosystem. ACS allows to use and extend Open Source, Microsoft, and Third Party applications.”

This move is really signification. I have contacted Microsoft to learn more about how and when the company plans to open source ACS, and if they do what open source licence they will use and how the company plans to work with the Linux and open source community on the switch. I have also approached the Linux Foundation (LF) seeking their comments on the development.

In a recent interview I asked the LF executive director Jim Zemlin if he thinks there will be Microsoft Linux he politely said ‘I don’t know’. When I pressed he responded, “Microsoft certainly supports Linux in Azure, and they do a lot of work to enable containers and other technologies on their cloud. So to some degree, they are supporting it. So who knows!”

Well here we have it, a Linux powered operating system developed by Microsoft. Welcome to Satya Nadella’s Microsoft.

All I can say is good job, Microsoft!