Azure rumoured to get persistent VMs, not so certain to get Linux support

Microsoft isn’t exactly known for its watertight ship when it comes to keeping all its secrets, well, secret. Its favourite go-to for “leaking” information that it doesn’t want to announce but wants to be out there anyway, ZDNet’s Mary-Jo Foley, has an interesting titbit from the Azure team.

While “Microsoft to enable Linux on its Windows Azure cloud in 2012” is an alluring headline, veiled under the sensationalism is a key feature that businesses Microsoft have been trying to persuade to switch to Azure have been seeking almost from the get-go. Currently, it is only possible to deploy Azure applications and non-persistent virtual machines to Azure. According to Foley, this is about to change with the availability of persistent VMs.

The current VM role in Azure is focussed on allowing users to create a VM image that is fundamentally different from the Azure VM that web and worker roles are run on. For example, a long-winded installation procedure for an application you wish to deploy to Azure that cannot be automated can be configured in a VM and then deployed to Azure. The problem with such VMs is that they have no persistent storage of their own – if they save anything to the local disk, they can be restarted and blanked at any time. Thus applications not designed to take advantages of Azure storage mechanisms will fail and all the data will be lost every time the VM is restarted.

Sources inside Microsoft claim that a new persistent VM role will emerge some time in Spring this year in a beta mode. The persistence would theoretically allow the deployment of applications such as SharePoint and other third-party apps to Azure. However there is no word on whether Linux will actually be supported – while it is theoretically possible, the Azure VM role currently uses standard base Windows Server disk images in the cloud with users uploading additional images to supplement these standard base installations. If this is also the case for persistent VMs, hosting Linux on Azure may still be a while off.

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