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Microsoft’s Linux-based OS: Azure Cloud Switch

Microsoft has made recent strides in software-defined networking (SDN), releasing a Linux-based open source OS – Azure Cloud Switch (ACS).

Though Microsoft is the world’s largest proprietary software company, they have long used open source software. For several years, Microsoft was the fifth largest contributor to the Linux kernel; and at least one-quarter of the operating systems running on its Azure cloud platform are Linux-based.

Azure Networking principal architect Kamala Subramaniam describes ACS as “a cross-platform modular operating system” custom-built for data center networking. According to the company, the OS “… 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 is designed to employ the Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI), an OpenCompute technology that gives users an API to program ASICs inside network devices.

These recent developments indicate a fundamental shift from Microsoft’s previous standpoint regarding open source software, wherein former CEO Steve Ballmer described Linux as a ‘cancer’. As companies and developers make increasing use of open source software, it will be fascinating to see how Microsoft continues adapting to consumer demand.