A day after Microsoft bid farewell to Windows Server 2003, the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant floated new Azure support options that the industry would have considered unthinkable just a few years ago.
To help pave the way for a smoother cloud computing experience for customers running Linux on Azure, the company kicked off new support services for a handful of the most popular Linux distros on July 15. It's not only a departure from an Azure technical support angle, but also from Microsoft's own Windows OS-centric past.
In October, while outlining his company's plans to bolster its hyperscale cloud capabilities during a press event in San Francisco, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella had a message for open-source boosters. "We are also a cloud that supports any OS on any container technology, so we support both Linux and Windows Server," he said. "Microsoft loves Linux," he added.
Now, the company is building on that sentiment by helping customers resolve Linux issues sooner and with fewer support calls.
"Azure customer support for Linux and other open-source technologies has traditionally been focused on determining whether customer problems were with the Azure platform or not," Guy Bowerman, senior program manager of Azure Compute Runtime for Microsoft, said in a statement. "If, for example, you were having trouble installing CoreOS on Azure VM [virtual machine], or experiencing a performance problem with your MySQL application on Azure; after verifying that the Azure platform was not the issue, you would be directed to work with your Linux or OSS [open-source software] providers to find a solution."
After today, Microsoft will provide limited support services for six major Linux distributions, namely Ubuntu, CentOS (OpenLogic), Oracle Linux, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, OpenSUSE and CoreOS. Technical support personnel will help users with the installation, configuration, networking and performance tuning of those supported operating systems.
To tackle more complex problems, customers will need to look elsewhere. "For advanced troubleshooting and performance tuning, you should contact the vendor of the Supported Linux Distribution directly," Bowerman said. "If help is needed to isolate the root cause, you or the vendor can initiate a troubleshooting session with Microsoft."
Beyond Linux, Microsoft is also providing support to some popular third-party technologies and software platforms. In terms of coding languages, that includes PHP, Java and Python. Also covered are the Apache and Tomcat Web servers, the MySQL database and the WordPress content management system (CMS). Support services are limited to the English language and U.S. business hours, said Bowerman.
Microsoft's support staff is trained to help users of those third-party solutions solve installation or configuration issues and performance shortfalls, along with deployment and runtime errors. Those users seeking design guidance and development assistance will be directed to community support or forums, he cautioned.
Bowerman also hinted that the current list of supported third-party technologies isn't set in stone. "Our list of supported Linux distros and [third-party] technologies are also subject to change over time, as we'll periodically re-evaluate demand," he said.