[FoRK] Linux has won — long live the rest of the indemnified stack

Stephen D. Williams < sdw at lig.net > on > Thu Nov 2 20:17:31 PST 2006

"Microsoft just said "uncle" on Linux."


November 2, 2006
Linux has won — long live the rest of the indemnified stack
Posted by Dana Gardner @ 5:56 pm
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Welcome to the "Linux Everywhere" world. Microsoft now loves Linux, even 
if Steve Ballmer wouldn't don a penguin suit.

Yes, Linux, I think we can safely say, has won. Oracle wants to get it 
to you cheap. Microsoft wants to let you choose how to deploy your 
applications — on Linux or Windows instances, perhaps on the same 
machine or blade rack. Intel, AMD, Dell, HP, IBM, Sun — they all just 
love Linux.

Linux has never been in better shape, as long as Microsoft doesn't think 
you're abusing their intellectual property. Microsoft today with its 
Novell agreements is essentially offering Linux indemnification when 
Windows and Linux play together. But you will pay for it. Want to be 
safe using Linux and Windows together? Better buy SuSe support from 
Novell. That's the message.

Of course, Oracle is also offering indemnification. So is Sun. IBM and 
HP seem to, too. So what gives? Is Microsoft making idle threats? Will 
they back the threats up by suing their own customers? Will they sue big 
customers? ISVs? They will need a whipping boy, or the implied threat is 
a bluff. The SCO thing didn't really work out. No fear there.

SCO or no-SCO, Microsoft needs a Linux-Windows TCO story that makes 
legal risk the difference between SuSe Linux TCO (with a Windows mingle) 
and the TCO of the rest of Linux (with a Windows mingle). And what's the 
big difference here from yesterday? It used to be a FUD threat of 
Microsoft, or proxy, bringing on legal wrangles if ANY Linux were used. 
Now, it's only non-SuSe Linux that might peeve Microsoft's lawyers.

As the Peggy Lee song says: "Is that all there is?"

Tactically, this was not the really big show that the lead-up to the 
announcement suggested. For those shops really worried about getting 
sued by Microsoft, they ought to go SuSe. Fine. Still, I'd say that the 
threat is mostly hollow. And I'll stay with that position until 
Microsoft sues a Fortune 500 company for intellectual property 
transgressions, which will just push enterprises into a pure Linux play.

But strategically there is a big, big story here. Microsoft just said 
"uncle" on Linux. They had to save face, so they did it behind a smoke 
screen of indemnification malarky. The bigger story is that the software 
game has changed to one of a battle between the "friends of Linux."

In other words, it's now a world of "our stuff" plus Linux against "your 
stuff" plus Linux. Microsoft knew that virtualization and SOA were going 
to make moot most distinctions between applications/services supported 
by a Linux kernel or a Windows instance. They saw that developers 
increasingly prefer to build, test, and deploy on open source … and then 
let someone else worry about porting to Windows, if necessary. This is 
especially true for SaaS and service provider ISVs — where cost is super 

I do think the timing on this is curious, and had to have something to 
do with Oracle's Linux move.

In any event, now that Microsoft loves Linux, too, the open source vs. 
commercial battle moves up the stack. Yes, it's clearly a stack world 
now, and the next battle ground is … middleware. Linux is a must-have 
commodity within any stack — a Windows stack, an Oracle stack, an IBM 
stack. You name it. Microsoft says so.

The real end-game for open source then is the rest of the stack, right 
up to and including the business applications. The new questions are: 
Will the JBoss model be repeatable and allow Red Hat to successfully 
move up the stack? Can they do it without IBM and Oracle? Will SOA 
emerge as a strong open source alternative? Will the hardware providers 
begin to give away the software, ala Sun, to pressure the non-hardware 
software players on price and make the profit from the hardware alone? 
Will the SaaS providers squeeze the business applications profits even 
as the profits in the Linux bottom of the stack wither?

Even as these questions are resolved, the ISVs and the enterprise 
developers now know: Design, build, and deploy on Linux, and have low 
risk, low cost. And may the best services within the rest of competing 
stacks win — on both quality and TCO, be they commercial, open source, 
or commercial open source.

Oh, one more thing … Should we expect Microsoft to also soon offer 
indemnification protection when one mingles Windows with Unix?

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