I never thought it possible and no, Hell hasn’t frozen over yet. Ready for it? There’s a Microsoft Linux Distro.That's right, the company behind Windows has created its own Linux distribution and Azure uses it for networking.Click To Tweet
The Redmond company revealed the distro, named Azure Cloud Switch (ACS), as a “cross-platform modular operating system for data center networking built on Linux” and “our foray into building our own software for running network devices like switches.”
As Redmond’s principal architect for Azure Networking Kamala Subramanian put it:
“At Microsoft, we believe there are many excellent switch hardware platforms available on the market, with healthy competition between many vendors driving innovation, speed increases, and cost reductions,” she said. “However, what the cloud and enterprise networks find challenging is integrating the radically different software running on each different type of switch into a cloud-wide network management platform. Ideally, we would like all the benefits of the features we have implemented and the bugs we have fixed to stay with us, even as we ride the tide of newer switch hardware innovation.”
As such, Redmond wasn’t able to find SDN code to fit its needs and ACS “… focuses on feature development based on Microsoft priorities” and “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.”
ACS uses an OpenCompute effort offering an API to program ASICs inside network devices called Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI). The post from Microsoft goes on to explain the features of ACS but leaves out why Linux was the preferred platform of choice. Microsoft apparently has shown off ACS across a number of platforms including: four ASIC vendors (Barefoot, Broadcom, Cavium and Mellanox), on six implementations of SAI (Barefoot, Broadcom, Cavium, Dell, Mellanox and Metaswitch) and three application stacks (Dell, Metaswitch and Microsoft).
In ending her post, Subramaniam tells us:
“We’re talking about ACS publicly as we believe this approach of disaggregating the switch software from the switch hardware will continue to be a growing trend in the networking industry and we would like to contribute our insights and experiences of this journey starting here.”
This is certainly a new side of Microsoft and it’s fun seeing the Redmond company embrace other platforms including Android and Linux. What you do think? Is this a good move for Microsoft? Let us know on social media or in the comments below.