Microsoft, Neutered.

As we abstract layers of technology, new, transformative technologies become possible. Linux is an enabler of such progress as it emerges from virtualization and cloud computing.

Commodity Server Environments

Virtualization abstracts the server layer; eliminating driver issues, and making an OS installation look more like an atomic unit instead of a collection of software and libraries. OS images become the foundation for many different application platforms. Install an OS with some core packages, use it as a template, and you’ll never have to repeat the process for all the apps you build (until you decide to move to a newer OS). It streamlines and standardizes your server environment. Repositories of free virtual appliances are available now for developers, sys admins, and hobbyists to tweak, learn, and implement.

Need a caching DNS, proxy, mail, web, DB, file, print, or development server? Grab one now, freshly baked, no Windows required.

Preserved In Carbonite

Once the hypervisor is pervasive in our environments, we will begin archiving VMs. Want to retire that old HR system since you’ve moved to a new platform? You can’t exactly delete the data it contains (in it’s proprietary format), but odds are you’ll never actually grab anything from it… again. Archive the VM. Put it on tape and free up some resources. If the unlikely occurs and you need to access the system, your hypervisor won’t care if it’s a decade old OS that only supports decade old hardware. It sure beats a closet full of old servers that may or may not boot; or a folder full of CD’s that won’t install on your current hardware/OS (plus you’ll still need to restore the data from tape).

Remember those VMs you archived, do they require Windows licenses while they’re sitting on tape, or just when you need to access them a decade from now? Have fun keeping track of that.

Streamlined Installation and Support

These atomic units (VMs) also simplify things for software vendors. Instead of shipping an installer, they can ship a VM. This reduces the amount of QA that goes into a product dramatically. It will run perfectly in the environment because it’s the same system they tested it on. It eliminates software requirements, speeds up problem resolution, and reduces support call volume. Vendors could more easily provide services to customize their products. Configure the image in house and send it out to the client when it’s ready. No need for messy VPN solutions and vendor access to your inside network.

Why would a vendor choose the additional cost of a Windows license and more importantly, the complexities of redistributing that OS with their virtual appliance?

The Cloud

Cloud computing moves the abstraction out even further, to the compute cycles, the storage, and even the data center. The end user doesn’t care what OS the service runs on, so it will be that of least resistance to the service provider… probably Linux.

Vendor Lock-In Versus Ultimate Flexibility

All of these things work better with an open OS. The ability to create libraries of shared images online is just not possible with Windows. Projects like NC State’s Virtual Computing Lab lend themselves to and will thrive in an open, unencumbered environment. Commercial software platforms add unnecessary overhead and crippling restrictions to our enterprises, schools, and governments.

Microsoft may find itself a has been, operating on the thin margins of commoditized desktop OS as organizations see the benefits of open platforms and open formats.

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