Editor’s Note: Today’s post is brought to us by Eric Weidner, OpenLogic Co-founder and Director of Engineering, describing how the company provides support and services for CentOS customers, including details on how to get OpenLogic CentOS images running on Windows Azure Virtual Machines. 

OpenLogic provides services and support for over 700 different open source packages, including commercial-grade support for CentOS, an enterprise-class Linux distribution derived from the publicly-available source code for Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Our goal with supporting CentOS is to enable Enterprises to take advantage of a fully open alternative to the popular enterprise Linux distributions that customers already know and use.

Since April or so of last year, we have had a close working relationship with the Windows Azure team, with the goal of making Open Logic CentOS images available in the image gallery of the Windows Azure Preview Management Portal. Our counterparts, like Henry Jerez, have been very focused on delivering a great solution for our mutual customers, working with us to meet a series of goals in order to make our “go live” dates.

What’s great about CentOS and Windows Azure is that there’s really very little required to get the OpenLogic images running. For users, it’s as easy as picking the Open Logic CentOS image in the Windows Azure portal, answering a few questions for the basic setup, and then a CentOS server can be launched in about five minutes. There are also tools available to give developers the ability to automate interactions with the platform.

Customers running OpenLogic CentOS images on Windows Azure can expect to have a vast, selectable and truly predictable deployment process in place. Additionally, they get servers running a distribution they are already familiar with using in their traditional data centers.

To illustrate just how easy it is, below is the step-by-step detail for how to create a custom virtual machine running an OpenLogic CentOS image using the Windows Azure Management Portal:

  1. Sign in to the Windows Azure Management Portal. On the command bar, click New.
     
  2. The VM OS Selection dialog box opens. You can now select an image from the Image Gallery.
  3. Click Platform Images, select the OpenLogic CentOS 6.2 image, and then click the arrow to continue.
  4. Click Platform Images, select the OpenLogic CentOS 6.2 image, and then click the arrow to continue.
    The VM Configuration dialog box appears.
     
  5. In Virtual Machine Name, type the name that you want to use for the virtual machine. The name must be 15 characters or less. For this virtual machine, type MyTestVM1.
  6. In New User Name, type the name of the account that you will use to administer the virtual machine. You cannot use root for the user name. For this virtual machine, type NewUser1.
  7. In New Password, type the password that is used for the user account on the virtual machine. For this virtual machine, type MyPassword1. In Confirm Password, retype the password that you previously entered.
  8. In Size, select the size that you want to use for the virtual machine. The size that you choose depends on the number of cores that are needed for your application. For this virtual machine, accept the default of Extra Small.
  9. Click the arrow to continue.You can connect virtual machines together under a cloud service to provide robust applications, but for this tutorial, you only create a single virtual machine. To do this, select Standalone Virtual Machine.
  10. You can connect virtual machines together under a cloud service to provide robust applications, but for this tutorial, you only create a single virtual machine. To do this, select Standalone Virtual Machine.
  11. A virtual machine that you create is contained in a cloud service. In DNS Name, type a name for the cloud service that is created for the virtual machine. The entry can contain from 3-24 lowercase letters and numbers. This value becomes part of the URI that is used to contact the cloud service that the machine belongs to. For this virtual machine, type MyService1.
  12. You can select a storage account where the VHD file is stored. For this tutorial, accept the default setting of Use Automatically Generated Storage Account.
  13. In Region/Affinity Group/Virtual Network, select West US for where the location of the virtual machine.
  14. Click the arrow to continue.
     
  15. The options on this page are only used if you are connecting this virtual machine to other machines or if you are adding the machine to a virtual network. For this virtual machine, you are not creating an availability set or connecting to a virtual network. Click the check mark to create the virtual machine.

    The virtual machine is created and operating system settings are configured. When the virtual machine is created, you will see the new virtual machine listed as Running in the Windows Azure Management Portal.

     

Easy as that! As I said previously, about a five minute process in total.

It’s great to see the commitment to open source projects by Microsoft, and the moves they’ve been making to open up Windows Azure to Linux. Not only has Microsoft open sourced the drivers, including contributing them to the upstream kernel projects, to allow people to run Linux on their hypervisors and platforms, but they’ve also created open source tools for developers to use to interact with the platform.  You can also find the source code and instructions for building from source and running the drivers on Github and Codeplex.

For a summary of how this work is benefiting CentOS and Windows Azure customers, check out my interview alongside OpenLogic’s CEO Steven Grandchamp on the Microsoft Openness blog . To start running OpenLogic’s CentOS images as part of the current Virtual Machines Preview, go to the Windows Azure site.