Microsoft has announced updates to its Azure cloud computing platform, including the availability of a virtual machine using its own build of the FreeBSD operating system to support developers building virtual appliances to run on Azure.
The company announced the availability of FreeBSD 10.3 as a ready-made virtual machine that can be procured directly from the Azure Marketplace. However, it turns out that this contains updates to the open source platform from Microsoft itself, developed to ensure that it can deliver an optimised version for developers to create virtual appliances on Azure.
"We have done a tremendous amount of work over the past couple of years to make FreeBSD a first-class VM guest on Hyper-V, enabling performant networking and storage capabilities that for the first time made it possible to run production FreeBSD workloads in Hyper-V environments," explained Jason Anderson, principal programme manager for Microsoft's Open Source Technology centre, on the Azure blog.
As Hyper-V is the virtualisation platform for Azure, this work enabled FreeBSD VMs to run in Azure, but it also allows Microsoft to declare official support for FreeBSD as a guest on Hyper-V, so that customers can call Microsoft Support if they need any assistance.
This is important, according to Anderson, because many top-tier virtual appliance vendors base their products on FreeBSD, and until now this meant that developers had to build their own virtual machine image.
"In order to ensure our customers have an enterprise SLA for their FreeBSD VMs running in Azure, we took on the work of building, testing, releasing and maintaining the image in order to remove that burden from the [FreeBSD] Foundation," Anderson said.
"Over the past two years, we've worked closely with Citrix Systems, Array Networks, Stormshield, Gemalto and Netgate to bring their virtual appliances to the Azure Marketplace, and we're continuing to work with a long list of others for future offerings."
Microsoft's changes are mostly at the kernel level to optimise network and storage performance in a virtual environment. Microsoft said it has "up-streamed" these into the FreeBSD 10.3 release, so anyone who downloads a FreeBSD 10.3 image from the FreeBSD Foundation is in fact getting the same version with the same improvements.
FreeBSD is perhaps best known as the basis for other platforms, forming part of Apple's OS X operating system and the Junos platform in network hardware from Juniper Networks.
Microsoft is no newcomer to open source. The firm revealed last year that it had developed the Azure Cloud Switch platform based on Linux.
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