Endorsed Linux distributions on Azure

Caution

This article references CentOS, a Linux distribution that is nearing End Of Life (EOL) status. Please consider your use and planning accordingly.

Applies to: ✔️ Linux VMs ✔️ Flexible scale sets ✔️ Uniform scale sets

In this article we will cover the following -

  • Types of Images
  • Partners
  • Image Update Cadence
  • Azure-tuned Kernels

There are several different sources of Linux VM images for Azure. Each source provides a different expectation for quality, utility and support. This document will summarize each source (marketplace images, platform images, custom images, and community gallery images). It will further provide more details about platform images which are images provided in partnership between Microsoft and several mainstream Linux publishers such as Canonical, and SUSE.

Microsoft’s Linux distribution partners provide a multitude of Linux images in the Azure Marketplace. For distributions that are not available from the Marketplace, you can always provide a custom built Linux image by following the guidelines found in Create and upload a virtual hard disk that contains the Linux operating system. For older versions see Linux Kernel Requirements.

The Azure Linux Agent is already pre-installed on Azure Marketplace images and is typically available from the distribution package repository. Source code can be found on GitHub.

For more information on support by distribution, see Support for Linux images in Azure.

Types of Images

Azure Linux images can be grouped into three categories:

Marketplace Images

Images published and maintained by either Microsoft or partners. There are a large variety of images from multiple publishers for various use cases (security hardened, full database / application stack, etc.), and can be available free, pay-as-you-go for BYOL (bring your own license/subscription).

Platform Images are a type of Marketplace images for which Microsoft has partnered with several mainstream publishers (see table below about Partners) to create a set of “platform images” that undergo additional testing and receive predictable updates (see section below on Image Update Cadence). These platform images can be used for building your own custom images and solution stacks. These images are published by the endorsed Linux distribution partners such as Canonical (Ubuntu), and Credativ (Debian).

Microsoft CSS provides commercially reasonable support for these images. Additionally, Canonical, and SUSE offer integrated vendor support capabilities for their platform images.

Custom Images

These images are created and maintained by the customer, often based on platform images. These images can also be created from scratch and uploaded to Azure - learn how to create custom images. Customers can host these images in Azure Compute Gallery and they can share these images with others in their organization.

Microsoft CSS provides commercially reasonable support for custom images.

These images are created and provided by open source projects, communities and teams. These images are provided using licensing terms set out by the publisher, often under an open source license. They do not appear as traditional marketplace listings, however, they do appear in the portal and via command line tools. More information on community galleries can be found here: Azure Compute Gallery.

Microsoft CSS provides support for Community Gallery images.

Platform Image Partners

Linux Publisher / Distribution Images (Offers) Microsoft Support Policy Description
Canonical / Ubuntu Ubuntu Server 20.04 LTS

Ubuntu Server 22.04 LTS
Microsoft CSS provides commercially reasonable support these images. Canonical produces official Ubuntu images for Azure and continuously tracks and delivers updates to these, ensuring security and stability are built from the moment your virtual machines launch.

Canonical works closely with Microsoft to optimize Ubuntu images on Azure and ensure Ubuntu supports the latest cloud features as they are released. Ubuntu powers more mission-critical workloads on Azure than any other operating system.

https://ubuntu.com/azure
Credativ / Debian Debian 11 "Bullseye"

Debian 12 "Bookworm"
Microsoft CSS provides support for these images. Credativ is an independent consulting and services company that specializes in the development and implementation of professional solutions by using free software. As leading open-source specialists, Credativ has international recognition with many IT departments that use their support. In conjunction with Microsoft, Credativ is preparing Debian images. The images are specially designed to run on Azure and can be easily managed via the platform. credativ will also support the long-term maintenance and updating of the Debian images for Azure through its Open Source Support Centers.

https://www.credativ.de/en/portfolio/support/open-source-support-center
Rogue Wave / CentOS CentOS Based Images/Offers Microsoft CSS provides commercially reasonable support these images. CentOS is currently on End-of-Life path scheduled to be deprecated in mid 2024.
SUSE / SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) SUSE Enterprise Linux 15 SP4 Microsoft CSS provides commercially reasonable support these images. SUSE Linux Enterprise Server on Azure is a proven platform that provides superior reliability and security for cloud computing. SUSE's versatile Linux platform seamlessly integrates with Azure cloud services to deliver an easily manageable cloud environment. With more than 9,200 certified applications from more than 1,800 independent software vendors for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, SUSE ensures that workloads running supported in the data center can be confidently deployed on Azure.

https://www.suse.com/partners/alliance/microsoft

Image Update Cadence

Azure requires that the publishers of the endorsed Linux distributions regularly update their platform images in Azure Marketplace with the latest patches and security fixes, at a quarterly or faster cadence. Updated images in the Marketplace are available automatically to customers as new versions of an image SKU. More information about how to find Linux images: Find Linux VM images in Azure Marketplace.

Azure-tuned Kernels

Azure works closely with various endorsed Linux distributions to optimize the images that they published to Azure Marketplace. One aspect of this collaboration is the development of "tuned" Linux kernels that are optimized for the Azure platform and delivered as fully supported components of the Linux distribution. The Azure-Tuned kernels incorporate new features and performance improvements, and at a faster (typically quarterly) cadence compared to the default or generic kernels that are available from the distribution.

In most cases, you will find these kernels pre-installed on the default images in Azure Marketplace so customers will immediately get the benefit of these optimized kernels. More information about these Azure-Tuned kernels can be found in the following links: