A recent column by Mitchell Ashley argues that Microsoft’s upcoming Hyper-V virtualization platform (formerly known as Viridian) “leaves out Linux in the cold“, because it only supports SuSE Linux and not the bigger contenders like RedHat and Ubuntu.
I believe that Mitchell Ashley misses two important points in his analysis:
- The US market, where RedHat and Ubuntu dominate, is not the market where Microsoft has the most trouble with Windows. In Europe and Asia, their dominance is not as clear. SuSE is a key player in Europe, in particular in Germany, and these are also the locations where governments threaten to standardize on “open platforms”. So instead of focusing on markets where it has little to gain, Microsoft may be after markets where Windows is threatened.
- The relative cost of software has gone up tremendously, and now is the majority of the purchase cost of any IT infrastructure. Long gone are the days when IBM simply gave the software for free when you purchased its hardware. So Microsoft may be playing catch-up, but as long as they can offer deals you can’t refuse regarding the licenses of Microsoft Windows (e.g. it’s much cheaper to run 4 Windows VMs under Hyper-V than under VMware), they have the possibility to tie rocks to the other guys’ ankles…
On a different topic, one of the comments suggests that SuSE only runs thanks to a binary-only kernel module. That would prove interesting if this is indeed the case. While binary kernel modules have been used for specific proprietary hardware such as 3D graphics cards, I don’t think it’s ever been the case before that you needed one for the kernel itself.
If it’s some kind of paravirtualization or acceleration as I suspect (another comment about someone running other kernels tends to confirm that viewpoint), then it’s a bit different. But if you need some proprietary binary simply to run Linux, I believe that this will cause some backlash from the Free Software community.