Azure Loves Linux; What About Microsoft?

The news that Red Hat and Microsoft have reached an agreement about hosting Linux is very welcome. I am delighted for Red Hat here, and see this as a huge sign of the continuing power and growth of open source. It shows that the cloud market is one where and embrace of Linux is table stakes. It also shows that the enterprise market is one where Red Hat is a huge and powerful supplier.

All the same, let’s be clear that all the “Microsoft Loves Linux” hype I saw at SUSECon in Amsterdam yesterday and at other events earlier this year is just not true. Microsoft Azure loves Linux, there is no doubt; it is a basic requirement for them to become relevant on a cloud market dominated by AWS and Linux. They have been out in force at every commercially-oriented open source I have attended this year and have a full-scale charm offensive in place.

But the rest of the company still does not. They still seem to covertly spread open-source-related FUD about LibreOffice here in Europe. They haven’t foresworn making embedded Linux vendors pay for patent licenses of dubious necessity. The Azure business unit is certainly embracing the ecosystem the same as many before them have done so in their steps towards open source. But the Windows and Office business units show no signs of “loving” Linux and only modest signs of co-existing with open source.

It’s hard to change a company as large and profitable as Microsoft quickly. But a significant and binding gesture of goodwill would go a long way to convincing those of us with the scars of Microsoft’s decades of verbal and actual abuse of open source that they mean business.  It’s no secret what the necessary gesture is.

“We both know we have very different positions on software patents,” said Paul Cormier, Red Hat’s president for products and technologies. “We weren’t expecting each other to compromise.”

Red Hat, despite asserting they don’t believe Microsoft has any patents that read on their products, included a standstill agreement in the deal. Sources tell me it is carefully phrased to comply with the GPL. If Red Hat felt they had to do that with their new partner, there’s no doubt everyone else remains at risk.

If Microsoft truly want to signal the end of hostilities, step one is to sign the Mozilla Open Software Patent License Agreement or join OIN. Until one of those happens, I remain sceptical of Microsoft’s love for Linux.

[Please see my InfoWorld article for more]

Open Source and Cloud

After the Community Summit at Open World Forum, three of the speakers – including me – spent 10 minutes discussing how cloud computing impacts the open source community.


Far from making open source irrelevant – an idea that only works if you see software solely in terms of proprietary packages sold by software vendors – cloud computing will drive ever more companies to participate in, and eventually contribute to, open source communities.

Red Hat’s Hidden Cloud

Not every project hits the headlines. As I’ve been co-hosting FLOSS Weekly over the last few months, I’ve noticed a surprising number of projects showing up that handle cloud computing in useful ways and are staff by Red Hat employees. I take a short stroll through some of those less known projects in this week’s InfoWorld column.

☞ Misguided

  • Ed Vaizey’s views at outrageously uninformed if this report is correct. He seems to think that flawless blocking is possible and that its benefits outweigh its disadvantages. He also seems to be speaking from notes written by the media and proprietary software industries. Exceptionally disappointing lack of insight.
  • Vaizey and the government in general seem to have no clue at all about the technical consequences of their political kow-tow to the media industry. Presumably the lobbyists they are having write their policies aren’t explaining those things to them.
  • I was going to write about this but Dave’s post summarises most of what I think. I have been participating in Harmony to a small degree with the intent of making sure the project includes FOSS community-friendly options (use the License variant with an explicit license choice) and to ensure that there are voices saying we really don’t need these agreements by default, only to handle specific exceptions caused by history and/or bad choices.
  • Forward thinking in other areas (they are pioneers in using open source for local government in the UK), Bristol City Council shows they are not only prepared for zombies but also for pirates.

✈ Google Cuts Off Travellers

Usually when I want to illustrate the capricious and arbitrary nature of cloud-provided services, I use other examples. But today Google has shown me that they too simply can’t be trusted to provide a service one relies upon. They are perfectly happy to leave you stranded without explanation or remedy.

As well as shutting down the Gizmo voice-over-IP service they bought, without any explanation or alternative but at least with a little warning sent via e-mail, they have also taken away the ability for anyone to use the “Call Phone” capability within Google Talk in GMail while outside the US. You probably won’t have used it if you had Gizmo set up, but now you need it – it’s gone.

So if you were using Google Voice for your phone calls while in the US and then relying on either using your Android phone with a VoIP client or the Voice support in Chat to manage your calls while you are travelling, forget it. They just turned it off, without warning, explanation or even the courtesy of a response to users in their online forums. That calling credit you have is now useless until you get back to the USA.

This is not the behaviour of a reliable service provider. I’m sure they are technically within their rights; there’s probably a load of weasel-words in some terms of service somewhere. But to provide a service that people depend upon and then withdraw it without warning, explanation, alternative or apology is simply unacceptable.

☂ Cloud Risks Article Available

My article on learning from the Wikileaks experience and managing the risks of cloud computing is now available in the Essays section.

⚡ Cloud Correction

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