Windows and Linux haven't always coexisted peacefully. But integrating the two platforms -- within a Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) cloud environment, at least -- has become a little easier with the introduction of official Ubuntu images for Windows Azure. Here's the scoop, and its significance for Canonical going forward.

To be sure, making Windows and Linux play nicely has become much simpler in recent years than it was traditionally thanks to a number of advances. For desktop Linux users, running Windows applications via Wine or through a virtualization platform such as VirtualBox is now a pretty straightforward experience, in contrast to several years ago when such technology rarely worked as well in practice as it did in theory.

Meanwhile, for IT administrators, the Microsoft Active Directory bridging software available from vendors such as Centrify and Quest supports the integration of Unix and Microsoft platforms in an infinitely more headache-free way than the old Winbind approach.

Ubuntu in the Microsoft Cloud

And now, running Ubuntu in a Microsoft world has been simplified in yet another respect, with Canonical's announcement of the availability of Ubuntu 12.04 images for the Windows Azure cloud platform:
We’re announcing today that you can obtain and launch Official Ubuntu Images from Canonical on Windows Azure. Windows Azure is a Platform as a Service (PaaS) from Microsoft that now includes the ability to manage individual virtual machines so that you can fully customize and control the infrastructure behind your cloud instances. Many developers and IT shops use both Ubuntu and Windows and as workloads migrate to the cloud, the case for making Ubuntu available on Windows Azure became even more compelling. Canonical and Microsoft worked together to ensure that Ubuntu, the leading operating system for the Cloud is tested, certified and enterprise ready from the start.
From my perspective, this news is a bit surprising given Canonical's strong investment during recent Ubuntu development cycles in promoting Ubuntu itself as a cloud platform with open source packages including OpenStack. The company now would seem to run the risk of competing against itself.

On the other hand, however, this could prove to be a very smart move for Canonical, which now has solid footholds in both the open source and proprietary poles of the cloud channel. Should one of those niches go sour, all will not be lost for the company behind Ubuntu.

Canonical's press release on the new images also pushes the Ubuntu Advantage paid support service available for the product, a sign that the company hopes to turn Windows Azure into another revenue stream as it continues to expand operations.

Whether this new offering will attract enough paying customers to generate revenue, of course, has yet to be seen. But even if it means working with the open source world's traditional arch-nemesis in Redmond, Canonical has made a wise choice by keeping its options open as the cloud channel continues to evolve in unforeseen directions.