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02.05.09

How Microsoft (with Novell) Subverts the Virtualisation Space to Harm Red Hat

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, Patents, Red Hat, Servers, Virtualisation, Xen at 1:40 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft’s bizarre relationship with VMware is no news and given the role of EMC in this relationship, it’s clear that so-called 'moles' are driving the affair. According to the latest news, EMC and Microsoft are growing even closer. Much closer.

EMC, Microsoft team for share of IT budgets

[...]

While tech spending has not evaporated, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said on Tuesday that most companies have mandated that their IT departments cut a significant percentage from their budgets.

“To save 5 (percent) to 10 percent, you have to save a little bit on a lot of things,” Ballmer told CNET News on Tuesday, in a joint interview with EMC CEO Joe Tucci, “It’s not like there’s nothing new getting done. Some new projects are getting killed. There’s pressure on vendors to reduce prices.”

For the uninitiated, here is some background reading:

As The Inquirer puts it, “Microsoft divides IT budgets with EMC.” By a sort of inference, Microsoft is now sharing money with VMware as well. VMware is managed by former Microsoft employees, some of whom have a criminal past that Microsoft paid a lot of money to hide.

This week’s news speaks a lot about an open source product from VMware, but almost nobody pays attention to the fact that VMware is now promoting Microsoft’s pet GNU/Linux distribution, which comes at a cost (of software patents). In other words, the ‘new’ VMware (under Microsoft’s management) already helps demote distributions and vendors that don’t sell out to Microsoft, very much like Hyper-V does [1, 2].

We’ll note here that prominent among VMware View Open Client’s features is a Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Thin Client Add-On RPM package and command line interface.

But what about Red Hat?

Isn’t Red Hat the leading GNU/Linux distribution?

It sure seems as though Paul Maritz came from Microsoft to scoop up some former Microsoft colleagues with Tucci’s endorsement (Tucci became Microsoft’s partner of the year last year). Now he’s working from inside VMware to put a software patents ‘price tag’ on GNU/Linux. Wasn’t that predictable? Microsoft pried VMware from the hands of GNU/Linux. It is using its money and its partners to rob parts of the industry of GNU/Linux and impose Microsoft's rules. Remember XenSource too. Here is a new article about it.

If Microsoft Loved Open Source, Who Would It Buy?

[...]

Could Microsoft take its cash reserves and buy an open source company? Why not? Who expected Oracle and Citrix Systems to become such big investors in open source. Citrix’ purchase of XenSource sure has worked out–for Microsoft, in my opinion. And that example might seed a desire for more open source code in Microsoft’s camp.

[...]

“[Y]ou have to save a little bit on a lot of things,” Ballmer told CNET News on Tuesday, in a joint interview with EMC CEO Joe Tucci, “It’s not like there’s nothing new getting done. Some new projects are getting killed. There’s pressure on vendors to reduce prices.”

For background about XenSource and Microsoft, start here. What Microsoft and its super-close partner did there eventually pressured Red Hat into buying KVM (with its parent company) and maintaining its own virtualisation solution, which is laborious and cumbersome.

As Matt Asay correctly pointed out a couple of days ago, this is Microsoft’s and Novell’s war on Red Hat (and any GNU/Linux distribution that does not pay for mythical software patents).

Going forward, I believe that Red Hat must expand its solution offerings if it wants to take market share from Microsoft. The Unix-to-Linux “low hanging fruit” won’t last forever. When it’s gone, the biggest barrier to Red Hat’s continued growth will be Microsoft. Unless Red Hat starts acting now to build up a holistic response to Microsoft’s value proposition, including the desktop, Red Hat will eventually struggle to grow.

The piece above contains a dramatic exaggeration because we keep seeing businesses that dump Windows for Red Hat, but either way, it’s clear that Novell and Microsoft are both attacking any distribution which is not a vassal to software patents, Microsoft and its ecosystem. Therefore, Novell and SLE* must be stopped.

Steve Ballmer license

Image from Wikimedia

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5 Comments

  1. Jose_X said,

    February 5, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    Gravatar

    Every time you use an API think about the API *designer* and think about this http://boycottnovell.com/2009/02/04/the-api-trap-part-1/ .

    If you buy Microsoft software, for example, you probably are covered by the patents they own, at least for their software, at least for home use. For more protection, you likely have to pay more, at least this will probably be their model at some point in the future. [Maybe you could also buy protection against various patent proxies such as the trolls supported by Gates, Myhrvold, and others who probably do a lot of business with Microsoft.]

    However, if you are using FOSS but which relies on Microsoft *designed* APIs, you might want to make sure you review the link above. Your hope of avoiding paying by using MS cloned FOSS may bite you.

    Ideally, software patents would not be a concern (Bilski?), but how many headaches and how much of your business are you willing to risk? As the link above shows, we aren’t talking about a few random infringements. We’d be talking about application after application created over those API being subject to infringement.

    My view is this, if you use a little and if you aren’t very rich or if those apps don’t threaten Microsoft that much, then you are most likely OK, but you aren’t if push comes to shove. Do you want the cloud hanging over you.. as a dev.. as a user? Do you want the foundation of popular FOSS distros and FOSS apps clearly in the radar of Microsoft and their patent proxies because of the abundance of these dependencies on what Microsoft, and/or very close partners, clearly have inventor status?

    Some might be OK with FOSS taking a back seat to all that is proprietary. I am not. FOSS can be better or at least very good and useful all by itself. In those cases where FOSS excels, the patent threats and/or action will get loud. It’s only if FOSS quietly accepts its status as an “illegitimate child” that you might be safe from patents.. in which case, the proprietary extensions (controlled by commercial entities) of foss apps will be what is actually hot on the market.

    Since I reject the idea that freedom of FOSS “exists” but only if you stay very mediocre so as not to be sued, I, therefore, also reject Monopolysoft APIs.

  2. Jose_X said,

    February 5, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Gravatar

    >> It’s only if FOSS quietly accepts its status as an “illegitimate child” that you might be safe from patents.. in which case, the proprietary extensions (controlled by commercial entities) of foss apps will be what is actually hot on the market.
    >> Since I reject the idea that freedom of FOSS “exists” but only if you stay very mediocre so as not to be sued, I, therefore, also reject Monopolysoft APIs.

    To clarify.. the dream of proprietary vendors, especially monopolists, — especially very successful ambitious monopolists catering to large consumer markets — would be that all of the important stuff the bulk of people want is controlled and owned by them.

    FOSS is interesting when you consider that the next hot thing can come, in part, from your great contribution/effort. And you can enjoy the same great contributions of others.. who’d license them freely for you and all to leverage and enjoy.

    So that is why I said that I reject companies that cannot accept these scenarios where much that is interesting does not come from them or from something they own or from which they receive royalties. I reject making it easy as pie for them to sue and threaten me and my business or my customers because I left the door wide open having based this FOSS I use (and on which I rely) on API (and patents) they designed/invented.

    Indications are that Novell is a prime mover in spreading Microsoft’s patent candy, Microsoft being the primary API designer you want to avoid if you value the FOSS value proposition and ideals.

  3. Jose_X said,

    February 5, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Gravatar

    >> However, if you are using FOSS but which relies on Microsoft *designed* APIs, you might want to make sure you review the link above. Your hope of avoiding paying by using MS cloned FOSS may bite you.

    It’s not just about paying for what *you* use, of course.

    If you create something interesting and hope to have 10,000 (or maybe 100,000,000) or more others use it (for free or maybe by paying you for a service), a high per cost royalty can kill your dreams. It can kill your otherwise virtually zero cost distribution mechanisms. Why give someone else control over the fee knob to turn as they see fit to benefit their interests?

    Freedom of zero price (and of arbitrary restrictions controlled by someone else at their discretion) as a baseline is important, even if you also charge money, because this is the only way to guarantee someone else won’t control your ability to scale your product. Heck, maybe the fee you will be charged will depend on how good your product is.. the better, the more you pay. Why **voluntarily** give someone else that control over your business or hobby?

    After all, as discussed or implied here http://boycottnovell.com/2009/02/04/the-api-trap-part-1/ , it’s trivially easy to avoid most of the problems just mentioned by simply using a different but basically equally capable API designed by safer sources.

    Don’t start off on the wrong foot with the spreading disease. Start off healthy.


    As for vmware (and citrix, etc), they will probably start pushing their own FOSS-y looking hooks to crowd out KVM and the rest. What makes this worse than your regular greedy proprietary vendor’s attempt to make a buck is their particularly close relationship with FOSS Public Enemy number one, Monopolysoft.

  4. Jose_X said,

    February 5, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Gravatar

    A rant on why I shun Monopolysoft.

    I think some devs have dreams that Microsoft will be open one day. Their campuses will be like a gathering of like-minded smart (blah blah) people that can share in intellectually stimulating ways. Let Microsoft lead, be mostly opened, and that would be “heaven” (with “me” working there, of course). [I can relate to this feeling, as an actual "nerd/geek" that gets a high out of mental challenges of a tech nature and of interacting with others that think similarly.]

    Well, I don’t particularly like this world (assuming it would come true) nor believe it will come true. You can’t usually have that much more access than others and not pay in some ways.. either $$$ or through the sort of internal sickness felt for not really being able to share and cooperate freely with those in the wider world outside your “clan”.

    I also think the wider world has a lot to offer me and anyone. Everyone should have all the freedoms if possible. Some people (like the majority of people on the planet) weren’t born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and they will generally appreciate having access when otherwise they would not [to things of a tech nature or otherwise.]

    For all the reasons I like FOSS, I shun Monopolysoft and their extreme ways. For them, their work is way beyond making a living. It’s about exaggerated exploitation of others. That is completely incompatible with all the things that “make me feel good” about FOSS.

    So in thinking of my happiness, and of the many people that have yet to get a good whack at extending and customizing FOSS to solve their problems, I reject Microsoft and their many platforms and API. I won’t voluntarily walk into their patent traps or help grow their ecosystem.

    [Though I have no need for any, a simple app or two from Microsoft would be much less threatening.. unfortunately, any such apps currently would only work on their limited and sanctioned platforms.. which I reject outright.]

  5. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 5, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Gravatar

    Microsoft already has patents-encumbered API calls in hypervisors that only SLES is able to use.

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