What do you think of Microsoft joining the Linux Foundation? Posed a writer on Quora based on the subject. There are those who saw this move coming, a good number are surprised by this move.
In retrospect, the relations between Microsoft and Linux was at an all time low during the reign of Steve Ballmer at the helm of Microsoft. He in fact was the one who called Linux a ‘malignant cancer’ and ‘communism’. Fast forward to March 2016, Ballmer has had a change of heart and is on record saying that he indeed ‘loves Linux’. The jury is still out as to whether he really meant it or was just playing to the gallery. A number of issues has indeed informed Microsoft softened stance against Linux.
First, Microsoft has traditionally depended on licenses sold to business as its cash cow. The software business landscape is however shifting to selling services as opposed to licenses. This was witnessed with the free Windows 10 upgrade that had the ripple effect of 10% increase in revenues to Bing. Additionally, Azure has been scaling up the ladder in Microsoft business to outperform other business segments to further stamp the need to sell services more compared to licenses in the new business terrain. In any case, Microsoft has been lagging behind other major players in the cloud space.
Second, unlike Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, the new CEO Satya Nadella recently went public on Microsoft’s love for Linux. The new CEO sees not only the need to partner with other technologies but also being able to accommodate other open source platform that Microsoft developers may want to adopt to use on the Azure platform. Indeed, some analyst laud this as a smart move for Microsoft from the new CEO. This looks to be a shift from old policy of inclusion to opening up to other development platforms. This is exhibited no more than in the numbers. During Ballmer’s reign, Microsoft lost 40% of its market value. To the contrary, it has gained 50% market share under Nadella. When you look keenly at ‘follow the money’ philosophy, it is easy to understand why Microsoft is embracing Linux. This was evidenced with their move to join Linux Foundation as platinum members which attracts an annual fee of $500,000. This was capped off by Microsoft move to port SQL Server to Linux.
It also comes as an awakening that indeed Linux is increasingly playing a vital part of today’s business technology as well as in health care. In any case, there is an increasing involvement of technology in the health sector as evidenced in this article. As such, as Nadella admittedly says, if you don’t adopt the new, you don’t survive. With a third of Azure customers deploying Linux servers, it is evident that old battles will not help the cause. Azure, while not supporting Red Hat Enterprise Linux, has room for CoreOS Linux, CentOS, Oracle Linux, SUSE and Ubuntu. It’s anyone’s guess that the percentage use of Linux on Azure will inevitably rise over time.
The Container revolution is also another reason why Linux is embracing Linux. Much as it is a latecomer in the Container front, Its CTO Mark Russinovich delivered keynote speech during DockerCon in Seattle, showcasing his company offering through Azure Container Services (ACS) to be supported on Windows Server.
It is also noteworthy that Microsoft currently makes tons of cash from Linux. It generates a billion dollars more from its patents on Android than it generates using its own Windows Phone. It has also been ‘forced’ to support other open-source projects like Big Data Hadoop and Facebook’s Open Compute data center project. Maybe this could also have made Microsoft open up: Survey indicates four out of five developers now use open source.
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