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Who cares about Hadoop on Linux? Microsoft (yes, really)

Paul Rubens | Oct. 21, 2015
By offering big data services in its Azure cloud on Linux, Microsoft is sending several important messages to customers.

There were, in other words, plenty of ways that Microsoft would let you run Hadoop. The only catch was that they had to run on Windows.  At the time Wes Miller said: "I think part of the reason that Microsoft wants Hadoop on Windows is out concern about the competition Linux poses. The company also wants to ensure that if you do use Hadoop, you can also use SQL's BI stack for the business intelligence part."

But the new message that Microsoft is putting out, and illustrating with Azure HDInsight on Linux, is that every Microsoft offering has to stand on its own two feet: nothing is sacred and nothing is unthinkable. If a new product threatens an existing business line, then so be it.

We've seen before. For example, Microsoft Office was available on iOS and Android before it was available on the company's own (struggling) mobile operating system. Now we are seeing this played out again in the cloud, in the context of Microsoft's flagship server product.

"The reality at Microsoft now is that you can't count on another division of the company to throw you a floatation device," says Miller. "In this case, look at Windows Server. If it works great with HD Insight then fine, but the company is not going to lose out on being a customer's cloud back end just because the customer doesn't want to use Windows Server."

That's good for Azure because there are good reasons for customers to want to run HD Insight on an open source operating system rather than Windows, according to Rengarajan.

"Linux is actually where people are innovating: innovations appear first on Linux, and then these are ported to Windows. So there is customer demand for Linux," he says. "This is part of a larger trend – not something specific to Hadoop. We realize that we can have a dramatic relevance to customers if we follow their needs," he adds.

Enabling more hybrids

There are other reasons for customers wanting HD Insight on Linux too: the Linux-based ecosystem for big data tools is bigger, and many companies already run Hadoop on Linux in their own data centers – making it easier for them to create a hybrid cloud environment for their big data activities, if they can use Linux in Microsoft's (or anyone else's) public cloud as well.

Offering Azure HD Insight on Linux is also a good business move because there is ferocious competition between cloud providers – particularly between Amazon's AWS, Azure and Google, Wes Miller says.

He points out that each of these three leviathans runs their clouds in different ways, so each has to compete for their customers based in their individual strengths. Restricting Azure to Windows would make it almost impossible for Microsoft to compete.


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