Microsoft Azure may not be the first name that comes to mind when most people think about open source software (OSS) today.
Until about five years ago, the suggestion that you should run open source software on Azure would have been crazy talk to most people. Azure did not even support Linux virtual server instances before 2012, and until a few years ago, all indications suggested that Microsoft remained rabidly anti-open source.
Yet corporate reputations die hard, and it can be easy to assume that a public cloud owned by Microsoft is still not the best place for running open source software.
If that’s what you think, I’m here to tell you you’re wrong. Keep reading for a list of reasons why Azure is an excellent solution for hosting open source software.
1. vBroad Azure Linux support
‘Not only does Azure now offer full-fledged support for Linux-based virtual server instances, but it also provides a wide range of Linux options to choose from. Whether you prefer an enterprise commercial Linux distribution like Red Hat, SUSE Linux Enterprise, Oracle Linux, a community-supported option like OpenSUSE, or a small-footprint option such as CoreOS, Azure has an officially supported Linux distribution for you.
The full list is available here. It includes eight distinct Linux distributions, and multiple versions of each one.
For those keeping score at home, Azure’s list of officially supported Linux distributions beats that of AWS, which supports only seven Linux flavors.
2. Open source databases on Azure
‘Azure also offers a wide range of open source databases to choose from (in addition to several proprietary options). They include MySQL, PostgreSQL, Redis and MariaDB. Thus, no matter how you like to store your data, there’s an open source option on Azure that will likely fit your needs.
3. Open source PaaS
‘Want to run an open source PaaS, but don’t want to set up and manage it yourself? You might not expect Azure to offer a solution, but it does, in the form of OpenShift, a fully managed implementation of Red Hat’s popular open source PaaS.
4. Azure Kubernetes Service
Microsoft didn’t invent Docker containers or the Kubernetes orchestrator — which are two of the most important open source projects to appear in this decade.
However, Azure led the way in rolling out a Kubernetes-based Containers-as-a-Service platform, called Azure Kubernetes Service, or AKS. Azure did this while the AWS Cloud’s container service was still oriented around a home-grown orchestrator (AWS has since expanded its services to include managed Kubernetes support), and Google Cloud, although it offered a Kubernetes-based container service, remained immature.
Arguably, AKS stands out today as the most robust and best-supported option for running Containers-as-a-Service in the public cloud. If you like open source, containerized infrastructure, you’ll likely like Azure as a solution for building and hosting it.
5. Everyone else is doing it
There is thus strong indication that many other organizations have already turned to Azure to host open source software stacks.
Granted, “everyone else is doing it” may not always be a reason for choosing to do something in a particular way. When it comes to cloud infrastructure, however, following the crowd is not necessarily a bad idea. If many other companies have found Azure to be a good fit for hosting virtual servers that are based on open source code, there’s a good chance that you will, too.
Azure offers perhaps the most robust and expansive set of services for running open source software stacks of any major public cloud provider today. Don’t let history scare you away from taking advantage of all that Azure has to offer for open source software hosting.