Intel's Cloud-Friendly Clear Linux Hits Microsoft Azure

Microsoft says that Intel's Clear Linux, a lightweight distribution of Linux that is optimized to run on Intel processors and is now available as a virtual machine in the Azure Marketplace.

Azure Clear Linux 2

Microsoft Azure customers looking for another Linux operating system (OS) option for their cloud workloads have another alternative to weigh this week.

Clear Linux, a distribution of the open-source OS that is optimized for Intel processors, is now available as a virtual machine (VM) in the Azure Marketplace. Launched in 2015 by chip making giant Intel, Clear Linux is aimed at cloud and data center workloads that run on Intel-based servers, enabling those workloads to exploit the advanced silicon features and latest innovations that Intel bakes into its chips.

Instead of developing another general-purpose distribution of the Linux OS suitable for a variety of workloads, Intel opted for a lightweight, "lean-and-fast" approach, according to the Clear Linux project website. On Azure, the availability of Clear Linux not only promises brisk performance on Microsoft's cloud, but also streamlined DevOps courtesy of the operating system's stateless capabilities.

"By separating the system defaults and distribution best practices from the user configuration, Clear Linux simplifies maintenance and deployment which becomes very important as infrastructure scales," explained Jose Miguel Parrella, a Microsoft Azure Open Source product manager, in a Jan. 18 blog post. "This also pairs well with bundles, a powerful way of distributing software that allows for scenarios like this system update with new kernel and reboot in just a few seconds."

Clear Linux is available as in bare-bones configuration, allowing users to build out solutions with their preferred bundles, Parrella said. Also available is a Docker-based container image as well as a working sample machine-learning image with preloaded open-source tools.

Breaking from it's long policy of promoting Windows everywhere, Microsoft has come to embrace Linux to help grow its Azure solutions ecosystem and entice enterprises into moving their workloads to the company's Azure cloud.

Linux first appeared on Azure in 2012 when CentOS, OpenSUSE, Ubuntu and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server all came to the cloud platform. In 2014, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella famously declared that "Microsoft Loves Linux," during a press event, and since then more flavors of Linux have joined in, including CoreOS, Debian, Oracle Linux and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

In November, the company made its biggest move yet to ingratiate itself with the Linux community. Shedding its image as the mortal enemy of the open-source OS, Microsoft joined the Linux Foundation as a Platinum Member, the highest level attainable.

Microsoft will pay $500,000 to the foundation and pledges to support its open-source efforts. The company joins other IT heavyweights at the top, including IBM, Cisco, Intel, Oracle, Qualcomm and Samsung.

"By becoming a Linux Foundation Platinum member, Microsoft is better able to collaborate with the open source community to deliver transformative mobile and cloud experiences to more people," remarked Jim Zemlin, executive director of The Linux Foundation, in a Nov. 16 announcement. "Microsoft has been a key contributor to many projects, and we see the company intensifying its involvement and commitment to open development."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...