Plenty of pundits say the cloud runs on Linux. Heck, even Microsoft appears to be gearing up to support Linux in the cloud -- sort of. The specifics: Microsoft is preparing to "enable" Linux to run on Windows Azure -- though it doesn't sound like Microsoft will officially offer "support" for Linux on Windows Azure.

The Linux-on-Windows-Azure chatter comes from All About Microsoft, the popular blog penned by Mary Jo Foley. Her sources have been solid over the years; I trust Foley's reporting.

Mixed News for Microsoft Cloud Partners?

Still, I'm not sure if "enabling" Linux on Windows Azure will be a win for channel partners and customers. Most of the major public cloud services providers -- Amazon Web Services, Rackspace Cloud, etc. -- already support both Windows and Linux in the cloud. And Microsoft's approach to Linux in the cloud doesn't sound very compelling to me. Foley writes:
"Running Linux on Azure has been a surprisingly big  business-customer request, as well, my contacts said. Microsoft won’t be supporting Linux once the late-March persistent VM CTP launches; instead, it will be up to customers to provide uploads of their own Linux images, I heard from my contacts. Microsoft plans to tout the persistent VM capability on Azure as providing users with an easy on-ramp to its cloud platform, as they can start with the apps they already have and host them without a lot of reworking."

For Linux to really succeed on Windows Azure, Microsoft must truly support Linux on Azure. A halfhearted Microsoft effort, pushing Linux support back to customers, could ultimately send partners and customers to alternative clouds, Talkin' Cloud believes.

Still, it's a bit early to speculate about how Linux on Windows Azure may -- or may not -- work. Microsoft has yet to publicly confirm or deny the Linux enablement plans. Plus, Microsoft does have reasonably good integration partnerships with both SUSE and Red Hat. Surely, Microsoft could extend those Linux partnerships into the Windows Azure cloud -- assuming Microsoft really wants to give customers what they want.

Talkin' Cloud has reached out to Microsoft for comment.