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Microsoft delivers Azure App Service on Linux

By bringing its Azure App Service, the company's fully managed cloud platform, to the Linux operating system, Microsoft is showing yet again that maybe it does love Linux.

In yet another indication that Microsoft does indeed love -- or at least strongly respect -- Linux, the software giant has made its Azure App Service available on the Linux operating system.

Azure App Service is Microsoft's fully managed platform for organizations to build, deploy and scale enterprise-grade web, mobile and API apps. And this week, Microsoft made the service generally available on Linux, along with its Web App for Containers capability, which enables users to get containerized applications to production quickly.

With this move, Microsoft now offers built-in image support for ASP.NET Core, Node.js, PHP and Ruby on Linux, and it provides developers with the option to bring their own Docker-formatted container images supporting Java, Python, Go and more, said Nir Mashkowski, Microsoft's partner director of program management for Azure App Service.

Microsoft simplifies the process

Developers are keen to take advantage of cloud technologies, including containerizing applications, but enterprises are grappling with complex configuration requirements necessary to move containers into production.
Charlotte Dunlapanalyst at GlobalData

"Developers are keen to take advantage of cloud technologies, including containerizing applications, but enterprises are grappling with complex configuration requirements necessary to move containers into production," said Charlotte Dunlap, principal analyst for application platforms at GlobalData. "A number of app platform vendors, including Microsoft, have been making an effort to simplify this process. Moving Azure App Service onto Linux provides additional support for developers of Docker containerized apps, who won't have to worry so much about orchestration."

Indeed, in today's fast-paced, competitive world, where software can be a competitive advantage, "developers need solutions that help them quickly build, deploy and scale applications without having to maintain the underlying web servers or operating systems," Mashkowski said in a blog post announcing the availability of Azure App Service on Linux.

To speed up development, developers can simply choose the stack their web app needs, and the system will set up the application environment and handle all the maintenance for them. Developers wishing for more control can make a Secure Shell connection into their application and gain full remote access to administrative commands.

Web App for Containers

Meanwhile, Microsoft's Web App for Containers enables developers to get their applications into production and autoscaling in seconds -- by pushing their container image to Docker Hub, Azure Container Registry or their own private registry -- and Web App for Containers will deploy their containerized application and provision required infrastructure. It also will perform infrastructure maintenance, such as load balancing, OS patching, server maintenance and virtual machine provisioning.

Mashkowski said scaling is as simple as dragging a slider, calling a REST API or configuring automatic scaling rules.

"You can scale your applications up or down on demand or automatically and get high availability within and across different geographical regions," he said.

CI/CD and DevOps built in

In addition, Azure App Service on Linux features built-in continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) capabilities, enabling developers to integrate with GitHub, Docker Hub or Azure Container Registry and gain continuous deployment through Jenkins, Visual Studio Team Services or Maven.

Moreover, the deployment slots feature enables developers to deploy to target environments, swap staging to production, schedule performance and quality tests, and roll back to previous versions with zero downtime, Mashkowski said.

Linux love and competition

Azure App Service currently hosts more than a million cloud applications. Adding Linux support will surely increase those numbers.

It was at least two or three years ago when Microsoft began to profess its love for Linux. At a press and analyst briefing in late 2014, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said, "Microsoft loves Linux," and put up a slide that read: "Microsoft [heart symbol] Linux." The company has continued to make overtures toward Linux and the open source community ever since.

"In Azure, we continue to invest in providing more choices that help you maximize your existing investments," Mashkowski said. "Supporting Azure App Service on Linux is an important step in that direction."

Of course, Microsoft is not alone in these efforts, and competition remains stiff, as platform providers vie for the hearts and minds of developers.

"Microsoft faces competitive threats in these efforts," Dunlap said. "Only last week, VMware partnered with Pivotal and Google to try to spur adoption of containers through a new service, PKS [Pivotal Container Service], which leverages VMware's infrastructure [and] virtualization strengths to ease the process of moving containers into production."

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