- 1 year ago

Microsoft has built software, but not a Linux distribution, for its software switches

Microsoft's ACS schematic.

Late last week, hell had apparently frozen over with the news that Microsoft had developed a Linux distribution of its own. The work was done as part of the company's Azure cloud platform, which uses Linux-based network switches as part of its software-defined networking infrastructure.

While the software is real, Microsoft isn't characterizing it as a Linux distribution, telling us that it's an internal project. That's an important distinction, and we suspect that we're not going to see a Microsoft Linux any time soon.

The Open Compute Project (OCP), of which Microsoft is a member, is an industry group that is working together to define hardware and software standards for data center equipment. This includes designs for high-density compute nodes, storage, and networking equipment. One part that Microsoft has been working on is network hardware, in particular, software-defined networking (SDN). SDN adds a layer of software-based programmability, configuration, and centralized management to hardware that is traditionally awkward to manage. Traditional network switches, even managed ones, aren't designed to enable new policies alterations to quality-of-service or VLANs, say to be deployed to hundreds or thousands of devices simultaneously. And to the extent that such capabilities are present, they vary from vendor to vendor.

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