Microsoft edged another step toward making Azure Service Fabric open source. The company released not the long-awaited Service Fabric source code but the next best thing: an official, supported release of Service Fabric on Linux.
In an today's announcement, Microsoft Azure CTO Mark Russinovich proclaimed the need for "a consistent microservices application platform and management experience across enterprise IT infrastructure," whatever the operating system or programming language.
Microsoft's motivation for this move is the same one that was behind the release of an edition of SQL Server for Linux: "Most enterprises today host a mixture of Windows Server and Linux servers," Russinovich said, and Microsoft is depriving itself of opportunities by not delivering products specifically for that platform.
The first public releases of Service Fabric on Linux are scheduled for Sept. 26, at Microsoft's Ignite conference. This release is not open source -- it's a binary-only release initially targeted at a limited subset of Linux systems.
Microsoft's first target distribution for Service Fabric on Linux is Ubuntu 16.04. The company has good reason for targeting that exact version. For one, Ubuntu 16.04 is an LTS release, meaning Ubuntu Server is guaranteed to have support for five years. Ubuntu in general has also been positioned by Canonical as a building block for modern container- and microservices-based cloud creations, so it's a good fit for one of Microsoft's initial Linux platforms.
The open-sourcing of Service Fabric, though, is still a ways off. "We have begun work on open-sourcing parts of the platform and will soon open-source Service Fabric’s programming models," Russinovich wrote. "This allows developers to enhance them as well as use them as starting points to create their own programming models and support other languages." The delay around releasing Service Fabric may be in order to give the product some time with customers.
Microsoft's attitude toward Linux has experienced a radical shift over the last couple of years. Linux is no longer simply a competing ecosystem, which Microsoft grudgingly acknowledged and supported mainly as part of its efforts around Hyper-V. Now it's a full-blown target for the company's applications and infrastructure efforts.
Still, at least some of the old Microsoft's motives remain. Embracing Linux is a way for Microsoft to deliver its products in a greater number of places. SQL Server on Linux, for instance, is also about competing with Oracle.
The same goes for Service Fabric. If there are customers in Linux-land who are willing to pay for the privilege of running Service Fabric in a supported form, Microsoft will be there to receive them -- and to stave off the competition.