It’s been reported over and over and over again. Yes, Microsoft has joined the Linux Foundation. This is an event, a real, serious event; something not one pundit, analyst, or Linux user would have even remotely considered not even five years ago. But there it is.

Don’t believe me? Here’s the announcement in which Microsoft has joined the LF as a Platinum Member. Upon joining, Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President of the Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise Group had this to say:

“As a cloud platform company we aim to help developers achieve more using the platforms and languages they know… The Linux Foundation is home not only to Linux, but many of the community’s most innovative open source projects. We are excited to join The Linux Foundation and partner with the community to help developers capitalize on the shift to intelligent cloud and mobile experiences.”

A more subtle shift

Shortly after this union, the Linux Foundation made a subtle shift in their convention scheduling. LinuxCon, CloudOpen, and ContainerCon will now be combined under one umbrella event: The Linux Foundation Open Source Summit. I’m not saying this change was done simply to accommodate Microsoft, but considering some of the marketing material has also shifted from focusing primarily on Linux to open source, you might be able to draw a conclusion or two. That conclusion, I believe, has been long overdue; that both the Linux Foundation and Microsoft are embracing one another not only speaks to the power of open source, but how the platform has become a major driving force in computing on all levels.

A perfect union

The Linux Foundation has been doing amazing work serving as a bridge between the open source community and the rest of the world — not just enterprise business, but end users, home office, small business, mid-sized businesses, and governments. They’ve fostered important relationships that have helped to drive innovation in ways that may not have been possible otherwise. The Linux Foundation has hundreds of members and thousands of projects (some of which have become essential to enterprise business); it makes perfect sense that Microsoft would not only want to get in on the action, but would truly need to be a part of this union. Why? One word. Cloud.

That’s right, the “C” word.

It is no great secret that Linux owns the cloud. Even from the Microsoft perspective, nearly 1 in 3 Azure virtual machines are Linux. Amazon Web Services, Apache CloudStack, Rackspace, Google Cloud Platform, and OpenStack are all powered by Linux. That is a piece of pie Microsoft wants to get the tines of their fork into. And why shouldn’t they? Cloud is the thing and cloud is going nowhere but up.

But this isn’t a one-way street. Ten years ago, had this same thing happened, everyone would be crying foul that Microsoft was only in this for themselves. However, I see a different shade of humble happening from Redmond these days. Microsoft understands one very important thing: As the cloud succeeds, so too does Microsoft. That sentiment is amended with the idea that the cloud cannot, in any way, succeed without open source. So it is in the best interest of Microsoft to ensure that open source does, in fact, succeed.

What better way to see to this than to join the cause?

The shift in strategy

Microsoft, the once very closed company, now:

  • Has open-sourced parts of its own .NET platform
  • Purchased, and subsequently open-sourced, Xamarin
  • Partnered with Canonical to bring Ubuntu to Windows
  • Worked with FreeBSD to release an image for Azure
  • Partnered with Redhat and SUSE to bring Linux to Azure
  • Has become a leading contributor on Github
  • Announced the porting of SQL server to Linux
  • Offers its own Linux certification

Those feats cannot be ignored. The company now delivers and is not showing any signs of backing down from its promise to embrace and extend. This is the same company that was once run by a man who said Linux was a cancer. What we have witnessed, over the last few years, is nothing short of a tectonic shift in strategy on the part of Microsoft…one that can help to redefine the reach and power of open source for years to come.

We have come a long way, baby.

A sizable win-win

I cannot help but come back to the Linux Foundation. A lesser organization might have scoffed at Microsoft’s advances, citing the years of FUD and damaging business practices. Fortunately, the Linux Foundation is bigger and better than that. They know bringing Microsoft into the fold is a huge win for them, for open source, and for the Redmond company itself. In fact, this is a sizable win-win for everyone, from end users to the biggest enterprise companies on the planet.

Thanks to the tireless work on the part of the Linux Foundation, open source has a juggernaut champion in its corner. That tectonic shift in the open source landscape is the beginning of a new world order for users, IT, and business.