Did Microsoft just sneak out its own Linux distro?

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Microsoft has quietly released the first stable release of its Linux (opens in new tab) kernel-based distro on GitHub under the MIT open source (opens in new tab) license. 

But before you head off to download and take it for a spin, you should know that the distro, named CBL-Mariner (opens in new tab), isn’t designed to be used as a general purpose distro (opens in new tab) and doesn’t put out easy to use ISO images. 

Developed and maintained by the Linux System Group at Microsoft, CBL-Mariner is in fact Microsoft’s internal Linux distro that’s specially tuned for use within its cloud (opens in new tab) infrastructure and edge products and services.

Microsoft and Linux

Microsoft has long shunned its former “Linux is a cancer” belief and has embraced the technology and open source in general because it makes good business sense to do so. 

Besides its numerous, regular contributions to the Linux kernel, usually to ensure its cloud offerings run flawlessly atop the kernel, the software behemoth owns GitHub (opens in new tab), arguably the largest repository of open source software, and CBL-Mariner is just one of a handful of projects of the Linux System Group at Microsoft.

The adventurous can follow the instructions (opens in new tab) of Microsoft engineer Juan Manuel Rey and install the distro inside a virtual machine. 

However, for the rest of us, the best bet to bridge the gap between Windows and Linux is to use the Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 (opens in new tab) (WSL2), which not is not only based on a release from the Long Term Support (LTS) Linux kernel 5.10 branch, but can now also run graphical Linux apps (opens in new tab) seamlessly on the Windows 10 (opens in new tab) desktop.  

With almost two decades of writing and reporting on Linux, Mayank Sharma would like everyone to think he’s TechRadar Pro’s expert on the topic. Of course, he’s just as interested in other computing topics, particularly cybersecurity, cloud, containers, and coding.