There is evidence that Microsoft is planning to open up its cloud platform to a lot more users by giving Windows Azure the ability to run Linux via a persistant virtual machine. Users of the service may run Windows or Linux in the cloud without losing state. Though no official announcement has been made, the Redmond superpower is reportedly planning to launch a test-build in the Spring of 2012. At the moment, virtual machine support on Azure is limited, as a simple reboot effectively leads to a complete loss of all stored information. Introducing the concept of 'persistance' or the ability to store data into the picture not only is valuable to users who rely on on virtual machines on a frequent basis, but allows users to run SQL Server or SharePoint Server in virtual machines.
In fact, it has been reported that many clients have refused to even consider the Azure platform until the ability to save states is introduced; combined with the ability for users to upload their own Linux images, these changes on route for 2012 may translate to a vast amount of satisfied customers. With Amazon already offering users the ability to run various operating systems in the cloud, this was a much needed step in the right direction.
Some, such as Joe Panatierri from TalkinCloud, have their doubts about the potential service; he questions the lack of any supposed features that would distinguish the virtual machine in Azure to other cloud-based services that allow operating system virtualization. He argues that Linux will not succeed on Azure unless it is fully supported:
A halfhearted Microsoft effort, pushing Linux support back to customers, could ultimately send partners and customers to alternative clouds, Talkin’ Cloud believes.
Still, it’s a bit early to speculate about how Linux on Windows Azure may — or may not — work. Microsoft has yet to publicly confirm or deny the Linux enablement plans. Plus, Microsoft does have reasonably good integration partnerships with both SUSE and Red Hat. Surely, Microsoft could extend those Linux partnerships into the Windows Azure cloud. -- Joe Panatierri
Regardless, it seems as though Microsoft is listening to their users and truly attempting to strengthen up its Windows Azure platform. In a society that is consistently transitioning to the cloud, Microsoft needs this feature to try and keep up with its competitors.