Microsoft Open Technologies, a subsidiary of Microsoft, has launched a public preview of its app store for Windows Azure called VM Depot, which it describes as “a community-driven catalogue of open source virtual machine images”.

VM Depot allows users to build, deploy and share Linux configurations, create custom open source stacks, work with others and build new architectures for the cloud, according to Microsoft Open Technologies.

The aim is to get more open-source apps running on Linux as a guest on the Windows cloud. Azure already has a store that allows developers to deploy applications to Azure, but VM Depot is closer to what Amazon Web Services is doing with its Amazon Machine Images service.

“You can already easily deploy different Linux-based virtual machines that include custom and curated installations and configurations. (We have the latest, full-fledged distributions of Debian, Alt Linux and Mageia for your hacking pleasure),” said Gianugo Rabellino senior director of Open Source Communities at Microsoft Open Technologies.

“You can comment on them. You can rate them. And, what’s more, you can remix them to your liking and possibly share the results with other members of the community. Or why don’t you go ahead and just create a new one from scratch with your favourite software? For ultimate speed, you can quickly deploy images already customised for specific business scenarios.”

Rabellino said that VM Depot is an illustration of how the Azure platform is effectively open, as the app store relies exclusively on published Azure APIs.

“As we explore the meaning of openness and interoperability of cloud platforms, I can now say that Windows Azure is at the forefront of the debate and provides compelling proof that documented APIs can do wonders to enable building amazing new applications that leverage the cloud.”

Images currently available in the library include versions of Ruby on Rails, WordPress, Riak, Drupal, Tomcat and Jenkins.

Microsoft Open Technologies was launched in April 2012 as wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft, run by the software giant’s Interoperability Strategy team.

At the time, Microsoft said the organisational would “advance the company’s investment in openness – including interoperability open standards and open source.”