In an ideal world, Microsoft would add full Linux support to its Windows Azure cloud, helping cloud integrators to blend Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), SUSE, Canonical's Ubuntu and other Linux distributions with the Windows Azure platform.

Here's the reality: Microsoft is preparing to enable Linux to run on Windows Azure. But it doesn’t sound like Microsoft will officially offer “support” for Linux on Windows Azure. That's where SUSE could potentially be an ideal Microsoft partner.

Microsoft and SUSE have a longstanding Windows-Linux integration relationship. Some conspiracy theorists in the open source market dismiss the Microsoft-SUSE relationship as harmful. But I think channel partners and CIOs have genuinely benefited from the Microsoft-SUSE work.

Much of the Microsoft-SUSE relationship has focused on data center consolidation and data center integration opportunities. Microsoft and SUSE claim their joint relationship has served more than 725 customers worldwide.  Also of note, former SUSE owner Novell has tested its cloud security service with Azure. Now, it's time for Microsoft and SUSE to extend their private data center relationship into Microsoft's public cloud.

Yes, there are more popular versions of Linux. Rackspace claims Ubuntu is the top Linux distribution used by its cloud customers. And Red Hat is building out its own cloud strategy. But the old Microsoft-SUSE relationship makes SUSE a logical choice for Microsoft's "open" cloud efforts.

I'm betting somebody -- perhaps Microsoft, perhaps SUSE, perhaps both -- offers full SUSE support on Windows Azure by the end of 2012.