Ballmer: Microsoft to go after Linux strongholds

Ballmer: Microsoft to go after Linux strongholds

Summary: During Wednesday's main attraction here at Gartner Symposium in Orlando, FL -- a keynote Q&A session with Microsoft's Steve Ballmer -- the CEO of the Redmond, WA-based company gave some details on how Microsoft plans to win the hearts and minds of buyers who are thinking about going with Linux instead of Windows.  A copy of the entire 45 minute interview can be downloaded (it's 21 MB) by clicking here.

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During Wednesday's main attraction here at Gartner Symposium in Orlando, FL -- a keynote Q&A session with Microsoft's Steve Ballmer -- the CEO of the Redmond, WA-based company gave some details on how Microsoft plans to win the hearts and minds of buyers who are thinking about going with Linux instead of Windows.  A copy of the entire 45 minute interview can be downloaded (it's 21 MB) by clicking here.

ballmerpullquote.jpg Server-based usage of Linux has been a thorn in Microsoft's side as millions of the company's potential customers -- either those looking for big iron and Unix alternatives or those starting from scratch -- have gone the Linux route with their application servers, database servers, Web servers and appliances (where the operating system is embedded).  According to Ballmer, Microsoft is only winning about 25 percent of the  deals where IT shops are trying to move off of Sun's Solaris or IBM's AIX Unix operating systems.  Regardless of where the new Linux deployments are coming from, in true Ballmereseque-spin fashion, Ballmer responded to a question about how Microsoft plans to deal with the remaining 75 percent by saying "We are not winning more than we're losing."

To turn that trend around, Ballmer said their are four specific Linux strongholds that Microsoft is focusing it's attention on.  Said Ballmer:

I think we have four big opportunities to take business from Linux and we will.   And again, why would we  take it.   Because people will take a look at the tools and the technologies we put in the marketplace and decide that they deliver better results at a lower cost. What's the first? High performance clustering.  High performance clusters is a thing that has been a Linux stronghold.  It's about 20 percent of all Linux systems.  We're coming out with a compute cluster edition of Windows Server. We're coming out with new development tools that help people write applications that make sense in that kind of scientific computing environment. We see a great opportunity to thrive with innovation versus open source, verus Linux. Same thing in Web hosting. With the new work we have coming out in Visual Studio and ASP.NET, we see a great opportunity to offer hosters -- lightweight hosters -- a better solution than Linux.  And that's been a traditional stronghold.  Same thing in server appliances

After discussing server clustering, Web hosting, and server appliances, Ballmer was cut off by the interviewees before he could identify the fourth.  But my guess is that, given the way Ballmer emphasized Software as a Service (SaaS) as a core theme for all the work that's taking place at Microsoft right now,  the fourth stronghold of Linux that Microsoft wants is the SaaS stronghold where Linux is the operating system behind a Java-based application server technology. Application servers typically live at the heart of any SaaS offering and whereas Java is primarily the SaaS middleware technology that's associated with the various "IXes," .NET serves in that role for Windows.  

Ballmer's comment about going after Web hosters with a lightweight offering is perhaps a big concession that its Windows Server products may include far too many accoutrements -- often referred to as bloat -- to service the basic needs of many server environments.  Linux has served Web hosters well in this respect because of how those in charge of deployment are free to make the operating system as mean and lean as they'd like, stripping out all sorts of componentry whose Windows counterparts (if they exist) can't so easily be removed from Microsoft's operating systems.  Whereas Microsoft may offer a lightweight version of Windows Server for Web hosters, Ballmer stopped short of saying that customers would have the same flexibility to pare down the OS to just those components that people might really want.

Breaking into the appliance business where the operating system is transparently embedded in such a way that end users never really get access to it may prove to be an even more difficult challenge for Microsoft.  The reason? Licensing.  If end users are building turnkey appliances the way ZDNet reader Miles Wade is for his company, then sure, Microsoft has an opportunity.  Particularly when that user wants support.  But for 99 percent of the appliances out there -- most of which are commercially available as turnkey products -- the embedded operating system that's behind the scenes is some free version of Linux or Unix that the vendor isn't paying a dime for.  Unless Microsoft plans to give away it's embedded version of Windows, I don't see how Microsoft can compete here.

Finally, compute clusters are a new enough business that Microsoft may have a shot if it can convince the developers of the primarily scientific applications that run on them to port their work over to Windows.  But, here again, the whole idea behind clusters (as well as grids), is often to parcel out workloads to the cheapest  commodity hardware money can buy.  The reason Microsoft has a shot here is that there are plenty of cluster users that are probably willing to pay a premium if they're guaranteed a high level of support.  But in many of these cluster and grid scenarios -- scenarios that often involve home grown setups with versions of Linux that aren't supported by any of the various Linux distributors -- the people running them are again not incurring any licensing costs on the operating system.

Saying "That means we still have work to do," Ballmer knows he's got a long roe row to hoe.  "The day I come in front of the Gartner audience and say we have a better Unix than Linux, that'll be a good day."  

For Microsoft employees, that sounds like marching orders to me.

Topic: Operating Systems

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  • I hope he does succeed

    Because the only way he CAN succeed is if MS does produce some first class quality software.

    My major beef with MS has always been that their software stinks, not the monopoly, not their wealth, and not the cost of the software. If they can change that, well then at least they've taken away the major beef of one person who's jumped ship.
    Michael Kelly
    • Roger that...

      Quality is the whole issue. I don't think most people mind paying for a product that works, but windows, all too often, doesn't...
      handydan918
      • Hey, no one speaks for me!

        :)
        Roger Ramjet
    • Couldn't agree more!

      preach brother!
      An_Axe_to_Grind
  • /dreaming

    Until Microsoft has a better product than the Free offerings the like of Linux and the BSD's there is no point in the conversation.
    Suicida|
  • WTF?

    I just don't see why the heck Microsoft can't be happy with anyone else in the game. If they want to make a MS Unix great let them. Why do they feel the need to be everything to everyone. You don't see McDonalds trying to control the entire food supply of the United States. You don't see Ford or Chevy trying to control all transporation. Imagine is Chevy decided they would want to build trains, planes, helicopters, motorcycles, and every other mode of transportation. Can you imagine that. WTF? Man just as soon as I start thinking that maybe MS isn't all that bad and I just happen to enjoy using Linux more they remind me why it is that I hate them.

    Its just wrong for one company to beleive they have to be everything to everyone. Damn it makes me mad... I just can't see the reason. It goes beyond profit. Its just vainity and greed. I'm not against profit or market dominance if you deserve it but rightfully but I am going to pour more effort, time and money back into Linux since I heard this story.

    Novell here I come. I will register tonight with OpenSuse and begin my work tommorrow. Beta testing, and writting documentation.

    Thanks for the motivation guys.
    Walter
    whieber
    • The Moat in Gate's Eye

      It's the moat, buddy. Years ago, Bill and Steve started this talk about protecting their OS market with applications that required windows. By making sure that every use for computers was covered somehow by windows, they could deal with competition.

      They have been very successful with Office as a line of defense against OS competition. As long as MS Office dominates the workplace, their OS is much safer from competition. That's beginning to crack now that some governments are starting to figure out that they were supporting the Microsoft monopoly by using their products as a standard office application. Notice the sweat being poured into the State of Massachutsetts.

      The same is true for Internet Explorer and .NET. There is no way MS could tolerate cross-platform applications dominating the market or even breaking into the market. So they needed to create Windows only alternatives to Netscape and Java to protect their operating system market.

      So when you see MS trying to be all things to all people, just think of their efforts as the Moat in Gate's Eye.
      Scottman_z
      • Do you mean MOTE not MOAT?

        Moat is a ditch usually filled with water. Where as Mote is a speck of dust which I think is more appropriate to your statement?
        Sheeva
    • A consequence of the capitalist system...

      Sorry - my response to this message ended up in the main thread - please find it there.
      frankbj_z
    • I agree

      I bought Windows 95 when it came out and I liked Microsoft back then. But then this thing called the Internet and Netscape took my attention off Windows. Microsoft vowed to kill Netscape and they did. From that time period I have hated Microsoft and avoid their software whenever possible.

      I use Linux where ever I can. PS instead of Xbox and Open Office and Firefox. Unfortunately I do use XP because it is a better desktop than Linux, (although my PC is dual-boot). When Linux catches up to Windows for it's presnetation and driver and software support, I will gladly jump to the Linux Desktop.

      With the exception of SCO, I have never hated a company before. I avoid Microsoft when possible.

      I also do my bit, by giving my friends Firefox, Open Office, Linux, and other great software like Google Maps for example. The great thing about Open Source is it screams "Pirate Me". And that my friend is another good reason and winning attribute of Open Source. There is no penalty for using it. Quite appropriate for the age we live in considering you can have all this stuff by clicking a mouse, but that is also technically illegal to use.

      Open Source Software gives me this warm fuzzy feeling that I am not being evil because I can install the same program on 100 PCs and not break the law.
      t8
  • I hope Windows does maintain about 25%

    I, for one, hope that MS can hold on to about 25% of the server market. As long as there are Windows servers on the net, a large percentage of the dark side will continue to target them and leave the rest of us alone (the same way lions pick off the weak and sickly animals in a herd.)

    As far as Ballmer's stating, "The day I come in front of the Gartner audience and say we have a better Unix than Linux, that'll be a good day.", I say good luck. Because if that ever happens MS will have to compete with the weather channel for the big story of the day.

    Personally I bet the lead story that day will be "H*ll freezes over".
    Otto_Delete
    • Mr. Ballmer wasn't talking about...

      ... the entire server market. The 25% refers to Microsoft's win percentage when Unix shops eliminate AIX or Solaris.

      Microsoft's share of the server market is growing very quickly. But it will be impossible to reach 100% until the Unix shop resistence is overcome.
      Anton Philidor
      • not rising

        Actually, Microsoft's share of the server market has been barely rising. During the 90's it was rapidly gobbling up market share from Unix, but then Linux came along, and all the companies that had been switching their propriatary Unix boxes to Windows on x86 instead started switching them to Linux on x86.
        Eduardo_z
    • Errr....

      Microsoft [b]DID[/b] a Unix version, XENIX. They actually acquired a license for Unix back when AT&T Bell Labs still held the rights to it (way before SCO, and before the SCO Vs IBM thing, MS licensed or ratified their [Unix] license from SCO).
      thetargos
      • Xenix history

        After Microsoft let the product languish for several years, they sold it to the original Santa Cruz Operation (aka oldSCO) who promptly let it languish further. I have a customer with this ghastly kludge of an OS that has been unchanged since 1996.
        Characteristics of Xenix:
        - Single processor
        - Poor memmory management
        - Slow task switching
        - Uses a virtual file system on top of FAT16
        arny27@...
  • hpc

    I would be really surprised if Microsoft got anywhere on hpc. Those clusters run complex programs written for Unix, and it would be hell to re-write them for Windows.

    As for Windows producing better software tools, I rather doubt it since hpc programs need to be highly customized and optimized, as opposed to the traditional "quick and dirty" programs that VB, .net et al are designed to produce. And if Windows does come up with something better, how long will it take the open source crowd to clone it?
    Eduardo_z
    • Re: hpc

      [i]And if Windows does come up with something better, how long will it take the open source crowd to clone it?[/i]

      Eh? Microsoft is trying to clone FOSS, but it will never succeed:

      "[u]Whereas Microsoft may offer a lightweight version of Windows Server for Web hosters, Ballmer stopped short of saying that customers would have the same flexibility to pare down the OS to just those components that people might really want.[/u]"

      Hear that? Same old same old. If MS allowed its users the same freedoms that FOSS allows, well, it wouldn't be Microsoft.


      :)
      none none
      • The Cloning goes both directions

        The OSS communities clone some of MS's capabilities on a daily basis. On the other side of the coin, MS does some cloning of OSS capabilities as well.

        If you think that OSS developers are the only people out there with enough imagination to come up with a good idea/software, then you need to take two asperin and check into a hsopital.
        djc13099
    • Actually

      A lot of those programs do have Windows versions out just because that's what people have.

      The more interesting part for me was that he was talking about an HPC version of Windows [b]Server[/] when what's needed is a stripped down version to avoid all of that overhead.

      We run beowulf clusters here for HPC work and I just really don't see how MS is going to be able to do the head node/compute nodes setup that works so well in these environments.

      (Also, the thought of having to run Windows Update and reboot a cluster makes me cringe.)
      Robert Crocker
      • Message has been deleted.

        Kim Greenlee