Last week when Microsoft and the Linux Foundation separately announced a partnership that would see Redmond issuing a Linux certification called Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate Linux (MCSA), Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols felt the need to add the words “not a typo” to the headline of his coverage on ZDNet. A couple of days later, when the story made the pages of The Register the headline included, “Do not adjust your set. This is not an error.”
We were just as surprised here at FOSS Force, and Larry Cafiero pulled no punches when breaking the story in Friday’s Week in Review. “There’s the argument that because Microsoft ‘loves’ Linux…we should be more inclusive,” he wrote, “but this is the company that considered Linux a cancer and has fought FOSS for decades. Rather than throw the Microsoft that is treading water a life preserver, I still think throwing it an anchor would be more fitting.”
So what spin did the Linux Foundation, the keeper of the Linux keys, use for its headline when announcing the pact? “A Great Start to a Great Partnership.”
The announcement was written by no less than Jim Zemlin, the foundation’s executive director. “Microsoft is demonstrating a sincere, smart and practical approach to how it builds new technologies and supports its vast customer base,” he wrote. “Microsoft open sourced .NET; it open sourced key parts of its web browser; and it uses Linux for its Azure Cloud Switch. The Linux Foundation and Microsoft share a common, strategic approach to technology development: balance internal R&D with external R&D to create the most important technologies of our time.”
For those who missed last week’s story, to receive Microsoft’s Linux on Azure certification, applicants will be required to pass both Microsoft’s own “Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions” exam (officially Microsoft Exam 70-533) and the Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS) exam. The certs are being issued by Microsoft and became available on the day the announcement was made.
As expected, Redmond kept to the “we love Linux” mantra it’s been chanting since Satya Nadella began sitting in the chair Ballmer had been keeping warm: “‘The Linux Foundation is the leading organization representing stakeholder interests in the open source ecosystem. That, combined with its proven commitment to professional, distribution-flexible and performance-based certifications, makes it a natural choice for our partner for Linux on Azure certifications,’ said Steven Guggenheimer, chief evangelist at Microsoft.”
What was unexpected was the Microsoft love that the foundation returned.
“Microsoft, many times over, is demonstrating a strategic approach to open source in order to serve its customers and work well with the global community,” Zemlin said. “This is just the beginning of what we expect to be a long and successful partnership.”
Although I didn’t see this coming, I should have after the November 4 announcement that Red Hat was joining hands with Microsoft Azure in a deal that sent Red Hat employees to work at the Redmond campus, and which would result in RHEL being named by Microsoft as its preferred choice for enterprise Linux. On December 8, the day before Microsoft’s new Linux/Azure certification was made public, Red Hat announced it had added support for Azure to its CloudForms tools.
The bottom line is that Microsoft “loves” all things Linux because with the advent of the cloud, on which the company is betting its future, it can sell it. More specifically, Microsoft absolutely must offer Linux to potential Azure customers if it’s to have a cloud business at all, as offering Windows without Linux would be pretty much worthless. Mark Russinovich, Microsoft Azure’s CTO, said as much during a keynote address at the All Things Open conference in October.
“It’s obvious that if we don’t support Linux and open source in our cloud,” he said, “then we’ll be a Windows only cloud, and that would not be practical.”
This latest partnership between Microsoft and the Linux Foundation only goes to illustrate something we already know: For all practical purposes, the Linux kernel is a wholly owned subsidiary of big business — and it’s being developed without a care for the wants and needs of desktop GNU/Linux users or free tech advocates.
Modern Linux is built by big business for big business, with 80 percent of the heavy lifting coming from corporate programmers, which was pointed out recently in a ZDNet article by Vaughan-Nichols. Intel, Red Hat, Linaro, Samsung, IBM and SUSE supply the manpower and decide the direction development should take, and as much as we “everyday Linux users” would like to think it ours, it’s not. We’re just the poor cousins who get to use it because of the GPL.
If the suits who sit in the boardrooms of corporate tech think they need Microsoft — quite frankly, at this stage of the game they do — then the Linux Foundation will continue to put lipstick on a pig and declare there will be peace in our time, even as Microsoft continues practices like extorting money from manufacturers of Linux devices for patents it may or may not have.
Deals like these give Microsoft credibility it doesn’t deserve. Unfortunately, there will certainly be more such deals, and Redmond will be able to pass itself off as an open source company without having to do the hard work necessary for it to become a good open source citizen.
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