Does Red-Hat/Microsoft Virtualization Agreement End the Vitriol?


I may have the history a little mixed up, but supposedly Winston Churchill, when asked whether British forces' victory over Rommell in "The Battle of Egypt" marked the beginning of the end of the war, replied no, but that it "may be the end of the beginning."


I think the same could be said about the Feb. 16 agreement between Red Hat and Microsoft concerning virutalization certification and testing. Red Hat and Microsoft have been at each other's throats off and on for a decade over patents, open source license terms and conditions, and the general philosophy of software development. Microsoft president Ballmer called Linux a "cancer." Red Hat VP Michael Tieman compared Microsoft to Jim Crow and Nazis. There had been similar vitriol -- plus a few law suits -- between Microsoft and Novell before they came together on an interoperability agreement in November 2006.


At the time, large customers of both suppliers pushed Novell and Microsoft to come together. The same appears to be the case with the Feb. 16 virtualization testing and validation agreement. Unlike the Microsoft-Novell agreement, there are no patent, IP or major financial clauses (each will charge the other testing fees, however). It simply means that Windows or desktop Linux will work on the other guy's hypervisor. According to IDC, the two operating systems already account for 80 percent of 386 operating systems running on hypervisors, so it's easy to see why users think such a move is important.


There is not a lot more to it The event was very low key: no Ballmer, no Whitehurst. I think the Q and A at the press/analyst conference was all canned. I think that because I could only submit a question via the Web and the spokespeople didn't answer the two softballs I offered up:


  • Does Microsoft have a similar agreement with VMware? It's not exactly the same because VMware does not offer an operating system but VMware is a member of the same Microsoft Server Virtualization Validation Program that Red Hat joined under the agreement.
  • Does Red Hat not already have an agreement with Microsoft concerning JBoss? The last time I checked this Microsoft-JBoss agreement survived Red Hat's acquisition of JBoss.


The questions they did answer were even softer than my two. But the agreement shows that IT users can make things happen. It is not surprising because as explained in this IT Business Edge article, Microsoft probably does not even want to be in the lower-software-stack business in the long term.


So jump ahead a few steps. Now it's time to rejuvenate Savio Rodrigues' idea:


Should Microsoft, after it has played out the Windows cash cow, acquire Red Hat?