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Photo by laboratorio linux, via Flickr.
Photo by laboratorio linux, via Flickr.

Microsoft will soon release a preliminary version of Azure Service Fabric for Linux, a free offering that brings to Linux the microservices-development abilities that have been available for Windows since last year.

With one out of every three virtual machines on Microsoft’s Azure cloud service running Linux, the Redmond company is continuing to bring new services to the open-source operating system, said Corey Sanders, Azure’s director of program management, in an interview yesterday. “A lot of enterprise customers are using both .NET and Java, and both Windows and Azure,” he said.

Corey Sanders
Corey Sanders, Azure’s director of program management

The preliminary release, set for Sept. 26, highlights the openness that Microsoft is showing toward non-Microsoft products under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella, who has been working to reshape the company’s culture.

Microservices break down the individual functions within a program, allowing them to be modified individually, even by different teams of developers. That’s in contrast with developing an application as a single piece of code or broken into only a few pieces, such as user interface and back end. Early this year, research firm Gartner put microservices in the “Trough of Disillusionment,” during which the focus shifts to a technology’s shortcomings and limitations, and a few products fail. But that stage is followed by a recovery toward the “Slope of Enlightenment,” followed by the “Plateau of Productivity.”

Microservices are most popular among young, tech-savvy companies that update applications frequently, even several times a day, Sanders said. But a few older, larger companies, including BMW, have also adopted them for some new apps. Microsoft itself used microservices to build the data-replication pieces of the Azure SQL Database and parts of Cortana, Intune and Azure DocumentDB.

“I’d say the technology is making the transition from early adopters to more mainstream, established companies,” Sanders said.

The preliminary version of Azure Service Fabric for Linux, known as a limited public preview, will be available to anyone who asks, but it lacks some of the features of the full, generally available version. That version won’t be released until Microsoft has gathered sufficient feedback from users of the preview.

Today’s announcement is timed to coincide with API World’s Microservices Conference in San Jose, Calif., attended by a group likely to take special interest in the news, Microsoft said.

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