​Linux and open source have won, get over it

2015 was the year Linux and open-source software took over the IT world, but many open-source and proprietary software fans still haven't figured it out.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

In 2015, Microsoft embraced Linux, Apple open-sourced its newest, hottest programming language, and the cloud couldn't run without Linux and open-source software. So, why can't people accept that Linux and open source have won the software wars?


Mark Russinovich, Microsoft Azure's CTO, comes in peace to the Linux and open-source software world.


I know way too many Linux users who think of Microsoft as "The Evil Empire." People, that was yesterday. Get over it.

Today's Microsoft isn't Gates or Ballmer's Microsoft. Today's Microsoft has brought .NET Core to Linux; it supports Debian GNU/Linux on its Azure cloud; and has its own Linux certification. Look at Microsoft in 2016 and you'll see a company which offers the open-source Hadoop big data software on Ubuntu and whose CEO proclaims that Microsoft loves Linux. Heck, Microsoft even has its own, specialized Linux distribution: Azure Cloud Switch.

To all this, I can hear some die-hard Linux fans screaming that Microsoft still forces Android companies to pay for what's almost certainly invalid Linux-related patents. Yes, yes, it does. Thanks to those 310 Linux-related patents Microsoft makes billions from Android. From Samsung alone, Microsoft makes a billion bucks a year for nothing except a promise Microsoft won't sue Samsung for patent violations.

Terrible right? Let me ask you a question. If you were making billions from patents, would you open them up? Donate them to the benefit of all via the Open Invention Network?

I don't think you would. And, I know darn well that no CEO of publicly-traded company can even think about giving away billions for the good will of a few programmers.

Eventually those patents will expire. When that happens, I don't see Microsoft going down the patent troll road. It's doing very well by embracing Linux, open-source software, and open-source development methods.

There are also Microsoft true-believers who can't see Microsoft really giving up Windows and other proprietary programs. You're right. It's not. Instead Microsoft has said it won't be releasing a Windows 11. Instead, it'll be upgrading desktop Windows right up to the point where most of you will be running Windows from the cloud where, in turn, your Windows instances will be running within Ubuntu-powered open-source containers.

Even Apple, which is far more proprietary than Microsoft these days, has finally gotten a clue. In 2015, Apple announced that it would open-source its hot new Swift language. Oh, and Apple didn't just open source it, it released a Swift Linux port.

Now Apple won't go as far as Microsoft has. That's because Apple isn't really a software company. It's a vertically integrated hardware company. Apple doesn't want anything except its own software, or software it has a great deal of control over, running on its gadgets. So long as people love Apple gear and will pay a premium for it, Apple won't go for open source in a big way. Eventually, the shiny will rub off Apple and it'll need to get on the open-source bandwagon as well.

As for the cloud, which is where all IT work is headed, much of it already runs Linux and uses open-source server programs. As Mark Russinovich, CTO of Microsoft Azure, said last fall , "one in four instances [on Azure] are Linux."

And Amazon Web Services (AWS), the biggest cloud of all? Bigger than all the other public clouds put together? It runs on a a customized version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) code.

Looking ahead, this trend will only continue. OpenStack, a pure open-source cloud play with vast support, continues to grow in popularity.

And, everyone on the cloud, and I mean everyone, is racing as fast as they can to use Docker and other open-source containers to maximize the server instances from their hardware.

I'll make this simple for you. Open-source programmers, you've won. Relax already. Proprietary software developers, get your GitHub account now, your world is coming to a close.

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