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Microsoft has built a Linux-based cross-platform operating system to run networking devices like datacenter switches for Microsoft’s Azure cloud services.

In a recent blog post, Microsoft’s Azure networking architect Kamala Subramaniam explains how Microsoft developed a new software system and dubbed Azure Cloud Switch to run the networking gear for their Azure cloud service.

“We’re talking about ACS publicly as we believe this approach of disaggregating the switch software from the switch hardware will continue to be a growing trend in the networking industry, and we would like to contribute our insights and experiences of this journey starting here”, Subramaniam’s blog post states.

Usually, software comes built-in with the network switches. But according to Kamala Subramaniam, Microsoft faced difficulties in integrating the software that ships with the switches with the wide variety of software it uses to run its Azure cloud service which. This forced the company to develop its own switch software and they turned towards Linux to do so.

Microsoft getting open-source friendly

Microsoft’s move towards Linux is not a huge surprise as Microsoft has cozied up to the open source community in recent years and it now provides Linux as an alternative for Azure customers.

Shedding some more light, this isn’t the first Microsoft has used open source operating systems. In 1997, when Hotmail was acquired by Microsoft, it ran on the Unix descendant FreeBSD and did so many years even after the acquisition.

Linux beats Windows internally

Nevertheless, Microsoft’s decision on the other hand for relying on Linux for a Azure switches is strange as they make slimmed down versions of Windows that can be used to run networking switches.

Microsoft isn’t the only company in the tech-industry that realizes their own software is needed to run their networking operations. Facebook and Google have been rolling their own networking software for years.

The requirement of custom networking software over a large-scale led towards the creation of OpenDaylight , an open source networking platform hosted by The Linux Foundation and is backed by Cisco, Microsoft and others.

Microsoft is using Linux for Azure Cloud Switch for the same purpose that any other company would use open source for. Microsoft can have benefit  by improving the code made by other companies with similar problems.

Source: Wired