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Recession reinforces need for Windows-open source coexistence

IT shops and VARs agree that efforts by Microsoft, Red Hat and others to foster Windows-open source interop gain traction in the recession.

Microsoft continued to push its vision of fruitful Windows-open source coexistence this week, and some of its messages resonated in open-source-oriented constituencies.

More companies are running open source applications atop Windows, partly to best utilize their existing IT skills base and to stretch the productivity of their installed platform, said Sam Ramji, senior director of Microsoft's platform strategy. The tough economy has just heightened that trend, Ramji told

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Gregory Rosenberg, CEO of RICIS Inc., a Tinley Park, Ill.-based reseller that does a lot of open source work, agreed that Windows is becoming an increasingly popular foundation for open source applications.

The fact that code written in Open Python, PERL, PHP and other languages "now runs on Windows means we're seeing a ton of Python and Ruby on Rails applications on Windows -- mostly in collaboration and communications type apps," Rosenberg said. "You can now write in any number of languages to extend the functionality of those apps."

Earlier this month, Microsoft said it would extend its support of PHP into the Azure cloud environment.

Windows-open source coexistence driven by customer demand

Some view the acceptance of Windows as a platform for apps like they do SugarCRM as a threat to Linux, but Rosenberg and others said the vendors are simply accepting reality. Many shops run both Windows and Linux and want to wring the most out of that existing investment. That means application flexibility and interoperability.

Ripping out one software stack in favor of another is even less likely to happen in a recession than in more prosperous times.

"IT organizations have never done a lot of rip and replace when they don't have to. And now, more than ever, they'll resist it," said Bernard Golden, CEO of Navica Inc., a San Carlos, Calif.-based open source consultancy.

Microsoft's recent deal with Red Hat on virtualization will assure that Linux guests run well on Windows and Windows guests will do likewise on Linux. Microsoft had an earlier pact with Novell covering SUSE Linux, but Red Hat remains the Linux of choice for most business users.

"That pact, with respect to virtualization and compatibility, means that even though [Microsoft] Hyper-V is a piece of garbage, complete with memory leaks, in theory you can interchange the virtualization technology between Red Hat, SUSE and Microsoft," said another partner who works in both Linux and Windows worlds and with all three vendors' virtualization technology, as well as with VMware.

Ramji said Microsoft's outreach is driven by customer need to keep functioning in a dismal economy. Microsoft research shows most companies are cutting 10% to 30% of their IT budgets, and the way they are managing that is to focus on strategic projects and controllable costs.

"Customers want low risk and they want value, including getting the most out of their existing hardware and software purchases," Ramji told Costs can be controlled by continued use of existing staffs and their skill sets. Retraining is expensive.

Microsoft took its "open-source-is-fine-with-us-show" message on the road last week with Ramji and Robert Youngjohns, president of Microsoft North America, also speaking at EclipseCon 2009 and hosting the third annual Microsoft Open Source Forum.

But some cautioned that while Ramji's group pledges coexistence, Microsoft remains threatened by open source, and contingencies there still bitterly oppose rapprochement.

"This is a cautious engagement between Microsoft and open source. It's not out and out hostility, but they are not blood brothers either. Both camps recognize the business needs of their customers and business opportunities for themselves and are pursuing that," Golden said.

There is by no means universal agreement on open source at Microsoft. "There are different camps. There is no Office on Linux and you won't hear Microsoft say Red Hat's a great product," said Golden.

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