Microsoft Joins Linux Foundation, Bets on Open Cloud Computing

Only a few years ago the idea that Microsoft could actively promote Linux and join the Linux Foundation would have sounded like science fiction, but that’s exactly what happens now: Microsoft is joining the Linux Foundation as a Platinum member.

The announcement was made on Wednesday, at Microsoft’s annual Connect(); developer event. Joining the Linux Foundation is one of several new initiatives that indicate Microsoft’s commitment to open source system and software development. The software giant is also welcoming Google to the .NET Foundation, and working with Samsung to enable .NET developers to build apps for Samsung devices running Android.

“We want to help developers achieve more and capitalize on the industry’s shift toward cloud-first and mobile-first experiences using the tools and platforms of their choice,” said Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise Executive Vice President Scott Guthrie. “By collaborating with the community to provide open, flexible and intelligent tools and cloud services, we’re helping every developer deliver unprecedented levels of innovation.”

“Microsoft is transforming the nature of its appeal to developers by broadening its supported platforms,” commented Al Hilwa, research director for Software Development research at IDC. “The new partnerships and commitments allow Microsoft to meet developers where they are and multiply its reach and impact with mobile and cloud developers as well as become established in emerging areas such as IoT, data science and cognitive computing.”

The Linux Foundation’s press release notes that, from cloud computing and networking to gaming, Microsoft has steadily increased its engagement in open source projects and communities, becoming a leading open source contributor on GitHub and announcing several milestones that indicate the scope of its commitment to open source development.

“Microsoft has grown and matured in its use of and contributions to open source technology,” said Jim Zemlin, Executive Director of The Linux Foundation. “The company has become an enthusiastic supporter of Linux and of open source and a very active member of many important projects. Membership is an important step for Microsoft, but also for the open source community at large, which stands to benefit from the company’s expanding range of contributions.”

“As a cloud platform company we aim to help developers achieve more using the platforms and languages they know,” added Guthrie for Microsoft. “The Linux Foundation is home not only to Linux, but many of the community’s most innovative open source projects.”

“We are excited to join The Linux Foundation and partner with the community to help developers capitalize on the shift to intelligent cloud and mobile experiences.”

John Gossman, Architect on the Microsoft Azure team, will join The Linux Foundation Board of Directors.

Catch’Em in the Cloud

Cloud ComputingSoftware engineers and developers, as well as advanced users, know that the core of the Linux operating system (OS) – the Linux Kernel – is now a better engineered product than Microsoft’s Windows OSs. Many native applications are still less polished and more buggy than leading applications for Windows and Apple’s OSX and iOS, but that can be solved with more funding to Linux application development and better tools – perhaps from Microsoft. The company announced preview Linux releases of SQL Server and Azure App Service with support for containers.

Since the end of the nineties there have been speculations about the possibility that perhaps one day Microsoft would ditch Windows and move to Linux, but of course that didn’t make much sense when Microsoft’s business model was centered on licensing Windows.

Now that Microsoft is pivoting to new business models centered on cloud computing, owning the OSs that power individual computers, tablets and phones becomes less important, and Windows could become more of a problem than an asset. In cloud computing, the user doesn’t need many local applications – just the browser and a subscription to services in the cloud, and perhaps a few local apps for especially important services. Therefore, it seems plausible that Microsoft could be preparing for a new world where local end-user equipment runs non-Microsoft OSs, and catch the users and their money in the cloud.

Images from Shutterstock and FutUndBeidl/Flickr.

Giulio Prisco is a freelance writer specialized in science, technology, business and future studies.