Microsoft has chosen Linux distro Mariner as sole host OS for Xbox storefronts

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A core part of the digital experience when it comes to games is the storefront where you make purchases. However, this is often taken for granted by the consumer without any consideration about the amount of effort that went into its development, both from a design and an architectural standpoint. That said, Microsoft has today announced a major change in its Xbox storefront infrastructure across console, PC, mobile, and Xbox Cloud Gaming.

The Redmond tech giant has stated that it is migrating its Xbox storefront infrastructure from Azure Service Fabric to Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS). As a part of this process, it has chosen Mariner as the host OS. The move is being led by Microsoft's Creator Platforms and Experiences (CPE) group.

For those unaware, CBL-Mariner is an open-source Linux distro that has been developed by Microsoft to power various cloud services on Azure. It's the base container image for Azure services, and powers the graphical components of Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 (WSL), and Azure Sphere OS, among many other things.

Microsoft says that it picked Mariner because of its roadmap focusing on reducing its footprint and increasing security and compliance. Brian Wentz, Principal Software Engineer at CPE also noted that:

CPE is in the final stages of migrating from Service Fabric to AKS, and as part of that transition, we’ve chosen to move to Mariner as our host OS. In less than a month, we scaled to 12k cores on Mariner. Once the transition is complete, Mariner will be the only Linux distro powering CPE.

[...] Looking ahead, we want to reduce our servicing costs at the container level as well, and plan to move to Mariner base container images in the next 6 months. Longer term, we also plan to utilize Mariner distroless containers.

This is not the first initiative of this kind from Microsoft, though. Prior to this, it migrated PlayFab - a company that it acquired in 2018 - to Mariner as well. PlayFab powers the backend platform for many live service games and also offers analytics and LiveOps. It hosts more than 2.5 billion player accounts spread across 5,000 games.

PlayFab's successful migration to Mariner has given the CPE team the confidence to do the same for Xbox storefront infrastructure. The group plans to migrate all Microsoft Gaming services to Mariner by the end of this calendar year.

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