One of big stories out of the Open Source Business Conference this week was Microsoft’s announced support for the CentOS community Linux distribution, a free clone of RHEL that nonetheless enjoys significant enterprise and cloud computing use, as we’ve covered extensively, including a special report that is currently being updated, in part, with a new survey.
This is not the first time MS has displayed love for unpaid, community Linux, given its 2009 contribution of GPL-licensed code to the Linux kernel. This was significant in that it was contribution and participation by Microsoft in the Linux kernel, beyond one of its partner’s Linux distributions, such as the case of Novell and SUSE Linux and more recently, Red Hat and its RHEL for mutual, customer-demanded virtualization support (451 subscribers) between Microsoft and Red Hat.
It seems Microsoft understands that unlike pirated Windows, which it considers a loss, the use of free, unpaid Linux — particularly by large enterprise, government and other organizations — is a big opportunity for it.
True, use of community Linux is typically driven by cost savings and the capability of sizable organizations to self-manage their Linux servers, often involving no payment. However, our research indicates there is often is still a need for higher level support and, more commonly, the ‘insurance factor’ of having a commercial vendor behind your infrastructure software so you, or your boss or board, have someone to call or blame if things go wrong. Microsoft is capable of supporting CentOS in both cases of technical support and being the insurance for an organization. It will be interesting to see the kind of reaction and traction the company gets from customers, presumably Windows shops, running CentOS.