Microsoft and the Open-Source Community

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For several years now, there has been some rancor between die-hard Microsoft Windows advocates and proponents of Linux and other open-source tools and solutions. However, several enterprises that hold fealty to neither the former nor the latter, but rather to their own bottom line, have begun to implement both operating systems (plus UNIX, in some cases) where they are most effective. Apparently, leaders from both factions have noticed where their customers’ loyalties lie and, consequently, initiated a veritable interoperability love fest.

One of the biggest steps forward took place in April at the Microsoft Management Summit, when the company’s CEO Steve Ballmer planted a figurative kiss (no tongue, though) on Linux during his keynote address. “We grew up focused in on Windows, managing Windows, taking care of Windows,” Ballmer said in his speech. “Today I want to mark essentially a step forward, where you’ll see that our dedication now is to providing you the kinds of tools that you need to manage heterogeneity in your data center.”

Later in the presentation, Jeff Woolsey from Microsoft’s virtual machine technology group carried out a demonstration on stage involving a Linux platform.

“As Steve has been mentioning with interoperability and heterogeneity—you may want to avert your eyes, Steve—this is Red Hat’s Enterprise Linux Advance Server 3,” Woolsey said prior to the exhibition.

“As much as that hurts my eyes, I know that’s an important capability for the virtual server technology for our customers,” Ballmer responded. (Source: Microsoft)

OK, so maybe this wasn’t a symbolic smooch on Ballmer’s part. (I suppose I’m a bit of romantic like that.) Perhaps it was more akin to the awkward, silent nod you give to co-workers when you pass them in the hallway at the office. Yet it was something: The gesture represented a departure from Microsoft’s long-standing emphasis on homogenous Windows application and server environments.

The Effect on Certification
The certification universe has not gone unaffected in all of this. Microsoft’s soon-to-be-released Microsoft Certified Architect credential, which will verify comprehension of enterprise-level IT solutions, will involve integration of assorted tools and technologies from various IT platforms—some of which, one must presume, will be open source.

“In this case, we’re trying to validate a very influential, very high-impact and very technically challenging job role: architects working at enterprise organizations who are tasked with the infrastructure, the overall technology road map,” said Al Valvano, business and product strategy group manager for certification and assessment operations at Microsoft Learning. “The skills domain that you have to measure to accurately credential that is very, very broad.”

In addition, Red Hat recently launched a foundational course for its Red Hat Certified Technician (RHCT) certification that is aimed at IT professionals who are proficient with Windows, but want to familiarize themselves with Linux. The purpose of the class, titled “RH035: Red Hat Linux Essentials for Windows Professionals” is not to steal IT experts from the Windows talent pool, but to help them adjust to the multiple-OS setting they’re increasingly finding at their workplaces, said Peter Childers, vice president of global learning services at Red Hat. “Switching sides is less of an issue than integrating environments,” he said. “Multiple-operating-system certifications are very valuable to integrating in a heterogeneous environment.”

So, there you have it: Sometime in the near future, your company might adopt another OS to perform certain applications more successfully—if it hasn’t already. In this situation, Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs), Microsoft Certified Systems Administrators (MCSAs) and Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers (MCSEs) may want to look into getting a certification (or two, or three) from Red Hat, Novell or the Linux Professional Institute (LPI), and vice versa.

In the spirit of using the right tool for the right task, let’s all hope this thaw in relations between the Microsoft and open-source crowds continues.

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