Why did Microsoft build its own version of Linux?

In today's open source roundup: What made Microsoft use Linux? Plus: Why we'll never see the year of the Linux desktop. And a botnet takes control of some Linux computers

Why Microsoft adopted Linux

Microsoft has always had a rather...er...challenging relationship with Linux. So what made the Redmond giant use Linux for some of its online services? A writer at Wired examined the issue and came up with some interesting answers.

Cade Metz reports for Wired:

Earlier this month, a Microsoft engineer discussed Microsoft’a very own Linux in a Microsoft blog post. The company is using this creation to run at least some of the networking hardware that drives its online services.

...to run an online empire, you need more than just servers. You need networking switches and other hardware that ties all those servers together. In recent years, as they’ve expanded their online services to unprecedented size, companies like Google and Facebook have realized that traditional networking hardware doesn’t cut it. Old-school gear from the likes of Cisco is too expensive and not nearly nimble enough for the task at hand.

All the other companies that have built their own networking software, you see, have done so with Linux. That includes Facebook and Google. Networking vendors like Cumulus and Big Switch—which help businesses mimic Facebook and Google—use Linux, too. And the hardware manufacturers who build the gear for all these companies, including chip maker Broadcom, have fashioned low-level software for this gear that dovetails with Linux.

The only logical route for Microsoft is to build its networking software with Linux, too. Among other things, it can tap into the collective work of everyone else. In fact, that’s pretty much what Microsoft engineer Kamala Subramaniam said in her blog post. “Running on Linux,” she wrote, the company’s switch software can “make use of its vibrant ecosystem.”

More at Wired

Why we might never see the year of the Linux desktop

The year of the Linux desktop is something that has never quite happened, and now a writer at ZDNet thinks that it never will. But why not? What has made the year of the Linux desktop impossible? The answer might surprise you.

SJVN reports for ZDNet:

Looking ahead, I see 90 percent and more of users working with hybrid desktop/cloud operating systems. Most people are already well on their way to not using conventional desktop and laptops at all. This trend, even as tablet sales slow, will only continue.

There will be a few people who will still use conventional desktops. These are the ones who want real control over their hardware and software. They're the ones who want real security. In short, they're the same people who are already using Linux.

So, by 2020, in a very limited way, Linux may be the top "desktop" operating system. It's just that there won't be many traditional desktops left in use. Everyone else will be working with one foot in the cloud and the other in a variety of devices, some of which, like Chromebooks and Surfaces, will look like desktops.

More at ZDNet

Botnet seizes control of some Linux computers

Security in Linux has always been quite good, but even Linux isn't invulnerable to potential problems. A botnet recently used some Linux computers to launch DDos attacks on select targets.

Dan Goodin reports for Ars Technica:

Security researchers have uncovered a network of infected Linux computers that's flooding gaming and education sites with as much as 150 gigabytes per second of malicious traffic—enough in some cases to take the targets completely offline.

The XOR DDoS or Xor.DDoS botnet, as the distributed denial-of-service network has been dubbed, targets as many as 20 sites each day, according to an advisory published Tuesday by content delivery network Akamai Technologies. About 90 percent of the targets are located in Asia. In some cases, the IP address of the participating bot is spoofed in a way that makes the compromised machines appear to be part of the network being targeted. That technique can make it harder for defenders to stop the attack.

XOR DDoS takes hold by cracking weak passwords used to protect the command shell of Linux computers. Once the attackers have logged in, they use root privileges to run a script that downloads and executes a malicious binary file.

More at Ars Technica

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