Red Hat and Microsoft cozy up in the Azure cloud

Red Hat and Microsoft have overcome their differences enough to offer RHEL on Azure, with all the trappings to make hybrid solutions work

Red Hat and Microsoft cozy up in the Azure cloud

It apparently took nearly two years to negotiate, but the sound of a crisp frost was heard in hell this morning as Microsoft and Red Hat announced what was described as a “deep” agreement for Azure to offer Red Hat Enterprise Linux and for RHEL to include .Net technologies.

The news will make hybrid cloud solutions using both Microsoft and Red Hat products a reality. To make that work, support staff for RHEL will be co-located with Microsoft Azure staff, and Azure VMs will be able to be managed with Red Hat’s CloudForms tool.

That must come as a huge relief to Microsoft Azure, the second-place player in a massively competitive public cloud market. Azure has been a big money gamble for some time, and while it has been able to secure agreements for hosting other Linux flavors (notably Suse and Ubuntu), the big prize has always been Red Hat.

Azure can now credibly claim to offer stalwart Microsoft customers seamless hosting of both the obvious proprietary workloads and Red Hat’s growing family of enterprise middleware. That will eventually encompass JBoss and OpenShift, but for now it means customers can use their Red Hat subscriptions on Azure via Red Hat Cloud Access.

Red Hat wins too, of course. The company is no longer locked out of accounts with critical dependencies on Microsoft that had been migrating to Azure, and with integrated support for Azure in CloudForms in the future, customers need not be specially aware they are even using Azure rather than other partners in Red Hat’s cloud certification program. The deal is clearly more than a marketing shim, as the two companies have promised to co-locate support teams so that hybrid cloud deployments have a single point of contact.

There’s clearly been some horse-trading, though. Red Hat has agreed to include .Net in both RHEL and OpenShift at some point in the near future, presenting to developers the previously unthinkable prospect of a .Net RPM.

Software patents have also been a sticking point. Red Hat made clear that it does not acknowledge the validity or enforceability of Microsoft’s patents, but all the same has demanded a stand-still agreement guaranteeing neither company will pursue patent claims against the other or its customers. There’s no indication whether this extends to partner ecosystems.

That is a key issue for the open source community. While its Azure business unit has been professing love for Linux and smothering everything in penguins, the rest of Microsoft has carried on attacking the Linux ecosystem with patent claims and showing little accommodation for open source in its cash cow Windows and Office endeavors. Azure may be desperate for validation in a tough and competitive market, but the rest of Microsoft still needs to change more than going silent on its antipathy for open source.

It’s hard to change a company as large and profitable as Microsoft quickly. But a significant and binding gesture of goodwill would go a long way to convince those with the scars from Microsoft’s decades of verbal and actual abuse of open source that the company means business.

If Microsoft wants to signal the end of hostilities, step one is to sign the Mozilla Open Software Patent License Agreement or join OIN. Until one of those happens, it’s best to celebrate Red Hat’s continued rise and the success of the open source revolution they are monetizing, while remaining skeptical of Microsoft’s overall love for Linux.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.