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Microsoft's Linux love affair leads it to join The Linux Foundation

You read the title correctly. Microsoft just joined the Linux Foundation.

Believe it or not, Microsoft has joined The Linux Foundation as a Platinum member.

It's not an Onion story. It's not an April Fool's joke. Microsoft has joined the Linux Foundation.

No, this isn't The Onion and it's not April Fool's Day. Microsoft has joined The Linux Foundation.

Microsoft announced that it was joining forces with The Linux Foundation at the Microsoft Connect developer event in New York.

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​Microsoft's love affair with Linux deepens

After testing the waters for years, Microsoft has launched its first service, Azure Cloud Switch, that's based on Linux.

Yes, yes I know. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer once said, "Linux is a cancer". Yes, Microsoft still forces Android vendors to pay for its bogus Linux patents. And, yes, Microsoft and its cronies are still scheming to replace Munich's Linux desktops with Windows 10. So?

Microsoft has also been steadily increasing its engagement not just with Linux, but with open-source projects and communities. For example, in the last 12 months, Microsoft released the open source .NET Core 1.0; partnered with Canonical to bring Ubuntu to Windows 10; worked with FreeBSD to release an image for its Azure cloud; and after acquiring Xamarin, Microsoft open-sourced its software development kit. On top of that, Microsoft now partners with Red Hat and SUSE to bring Linux to Azure.

Heck, Ballmer even recently said he loved Microsoft's porting of SQL Server to Linux.

So did someone put some LSD in current Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's tea? No.

Microsoft has changed. Today's Microsoft supports Debian GNU/Linux on Azure and has its own Linux certification. 2016's Microsoft offers the open-source Hadoop big data software on Ubuntu and its CEO proclaims that Microsoft loves Linux. Microsoft even has its own specialized Linux distribution: Azure Cloud Switch.

Why has Microsoft done all this? Because, in two words: "Linux won".

It's only on the desktop that Microsoft is still omnipresent. Windows isn't even the most popular end-user operating system. That honor goes to Android.

Everywhere else -- clouds, supercomputers, and servers -- it's a Linux world. Microsoft could have tried to fight it and hemorrhage red-ink, or they could embrace it and profit. They chose to make money.

Don't believe me? Look at Azure. In Microsoft's last quarter, Azure revenue was up 116 percent, with compute usage doubling. What do people run on Azure? More and more they run Linux. One in three server instances on Azure are Linux. I'm counting the days until there's more Linux than Windows Server running on Azure. I won't have that many to count.

Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's executive VP of Cloud and Enterprise Group, knows what I'm talking about. In a statement, he said: "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."

This isn't Microsoft's first move in working with the industry's leading Linux group. Microsoft already contributes to several Linux Foundation projects, including the Node.js Foundation, OpenDaylight, Open Container Initiative, R Consortium, and Open API Initiative.

I asked Jim Zemlin, the Linux Foundation's executive director, if he were surprised that Microsoft had made the jump to joining the Foundation. He replied:

"Our philosophy is that open source should be a big tent where anyone can contribute.

There was a time where proprietary versus open source was a winner-take-all proposition, but that's in the past. Open source is now a major force in software development, and the industry realizes you can make yourself better, while also making others better at the same time. Microsoft has been embracing open source increasingly for the better part of a decade, including contributing to and supporting many Linux Foundation projects, so their decision to take the next step and become a Linux Foundation member didn't come as a surprise to us.

Microsoft has grown and matured in its use of and contributions to open-source technology. The company has become an enthusiastic supporter of Linux and of open source and a very active member of many important projects. Membership is an important step for Microsoft, but also for the open-source community at large, which stands to benefit from the company's expanding range of contributions."

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