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Microsoft Creates Catalog of Linux-based Virtual Machines for Windows Azure

by Richard Seroter on Jan 18, 2013 |

Microsoft Open Technologies, a full-owned subsidiary of Microsoft launched in 2012, unveiled their first major offerings in the form of a repository for pre-configured virtual machines that can be quickly deployed to the Windows Azure cloud. The VM Depot is advertised as a place to discover and deploy Azure-friendly virtual machines, and may be Microsoft’s answer to the popular catalog provided for Amazon Web Services (AWS) users.

While the Microsoft Open Technologies group has released a number of small projects via Github, this seems to be their most public launch to date. In a blog post announcing the VM Depot, Gianugo Rabellino of Microsoft Open Technologies indicates that this is the just the start of Microsoft’s efforts to aggressively court all developers to their public cloud.

On VM Depot the community can build, deploy and share their favorite Linux configuration, create custom open source stacks, work with others and build new architectures for the cloud that leverage the openness and flexibility of the Windows Azure platform.

The preview launch of VM Depot today is an introduction of things to come: you can already easily deploy different Linux-based virtual machines that include custom and curated installations and configurations. (We have the latest, full-fledged distributions of Debian, Alt Linux and Mageia for your hacking pleasure.) You can comment on them. You can rate them. And, what’s more, you can remix them to your liking and possibly share the results with other members of the community. Or why don’t you go ahead and just create a new one from scratch with your favorite software? For ultimate speed, you can quickly deploy images already customized for specific business scenarios. All this is just a few clicks away, completely free of charge and just waiting for your input to make it better.

Here in the early going, the VM Depot has a small set of virtual machine images to choose from. However, because of partnerships with Alt Linux, Basho, BitNami,  and Hupstream, developers can already deploy virtual machines with the full Ruby stack, the LAMP stackRiak database nodes, the continuous integration tool Jenkins, and more.

Microsoft has shared a set of instructions for publishing an image to the VM Depot, deploying an image to Windows Azure, and updating published images. Using credentials from Windows Live, Google or Yahoo, developers can sign up for an account with the VM Depot. To publish a new image to the gallery, the developer has to first create a virtual hard drive (VHD) and add it to a public Windows Azure Blob storage location. Then, they are asked for the URL to the VHD image when completing the publication process. Once an image is published to the VM Depot, the developer can edit, delete or upgrade the image.

To deploy an image from the VM Depot to Windows Azure, there are only a few prerequisites. Developers must install both Node and the multi-platform Windows Azure command line tools. Each entry in the VM Depot is accompanied by a “Deployment Script” hyperlink which generates the script statement used by the Windows Azure command line tools to publish the selected image to a Windows Azure account. While there do not appear to be any virtual machines images published to the VM Depot by anyone but launch partners, there are already a handful of blog posts by developers who have tried out the publication process.

Microsoft’s modest VM Depot will inevitably be compared to the massive collection of Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) in the AWS catalog. As of this writing, the AWS catalog contains 309 Linux-based images created by AWS themselves, and 12,738 Linux-based images uploaded by AWS users.  While this is a daunting gap, Microsoft appears to be ramping up their efforts to sell their yet-to-be-released Virtual Machines service as a viable offering for Windows and Linux users alike.

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