Coming to Terms With Microsoft and Linux
For many Microsoft partners, the last two decades could easily be defined as a battle between the merits of Windows server software and a raft of open-source technologies that, to one degree or another, were aimed at usurping the Microsoft franchise.
So now that Microsoft has begun to embrace Linux and open source, it's understandable if many of the company's traditional partners are somewhat conflicted. Not only has Microsoft announced that SQL Server 2016 will be available on Linux, at the Microsoft Build 2016 conference, the company went so far as to add support for a Bash Unix shell from Canonical, the distributor of Ubuntu Linux, running on Windows 10.
Dustin Kirkland, a member if the Ubuntu product team at Canonical, who has spent most of his professional career competing against Microsoft, notes that as far as many longtime open-source advocates are concerned, it's a brave new Microsoft world under the leadership of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
Most of Microsoft's open-source initiatives are clearly aimed at the developer community that prefers many of the tools available on open-source platforms over what Microsoft currently provides. In fact, for that reason, Microsoft recently threw its weight behind the latest open-source Eclipse IDE initiative.
Ultimately, it's apparent that Microsoft intends to make Linux platforms an equal citizen with Windows on its Azure platform, which most notably is evidenced by the availability of an entire open-source stack of software from Red Hat on Azure. The ultimate goal is to create a critical mass of applications on Azure that will enable Microsoft to counter Amazon Web Services for supremacy in the public cloud.
As Microsoft partners get used to all this new Microsoft openness—as strange as that may feel—one thing they would do well to remember is that the size of the available market to them just essentially doubled. The challenge now is figuring out how to bring the right mix of services to market that not only compensate for lost product margins when a customer moves to open-source software, but also wind up delivering a higher value proposition for all concerned.
Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for more than 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.