Once fierce data centre rivals Microsoft and Red Hat are, at long last, bringing the most widely adopted Linux distribution among enterprises into the Azure cloud - an accord revealed Wednesday that illustrates the historic transformation the cloud has forced upon the IT landscape.
The agreement will almost immediately create significant new opportunities for Microsoft-aligned solution providers to drive enterprise data centre workloads into Azure, overseas partners told CRN USA.
The previous lack of cooperation between the two software developers - and lack of support for the Red Hat operating system in Azure - stymied many deals for many channel businesses in the past, one overseas partner told CRN USA.
In a blog post, Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft's cloud and enterprise group, wrote that the partnership was spurred by the major transformations the cloud is creating across the industry and will address customer challenges in building hybrid environments.
"By working with Red Hat, we will address common enterprise, ISV and developer needs for building, deploying and managing applications on Red Hat software across private and public clouds," Guthrie said.
Red Hat products will soon be available natively to Azure users, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), the JBoss middleware platform and RHEL applications.
In a few weeks, the two software developers will also colocate personnel to offer their joint enterprise customers integrated support "that is deeper and richer than any other public cloud offering," according to Guthrie.
The collaboration will extend Microsoft's .NET development platform to Red Hat products, including the OpenShift Platform-as-a-Service. And it will affect management platforms by integrating Red Hat CloudForms and Microsoft's System Center Virtual Machine Manager.
Whatever roadblock delayed the partnership that for years so many channel partners and customers had been clamoring for wasn't technical, or even related to entrenched opposition to Linux from the Windows developer.
Azure already supports several Linux distros: Canonical's Ubuntu, CentOS, CoreOS, Oracle Linux and SUSE Linux. About a quarter of Azure users are running some form of Linux, one partner estimated.
"It was never a technical blocker," the USA partner said. "Red Hat runs just fine on Azure, has for two years. It's purely been a contractual blocker. But for an enterprise, that's as good as a technical blocker. If they're not going to get support, they're not going to go."
The fact that almost a quarter of Azure workloads run Linux even before a Red Hat deal - let alone that so many more will because of the new pact - is evidence of the drastic transformation at Microsoft and in the industry as a whole.
Paul Cormier, president of products and technologies at Red Hat, wrote in a blog post that over the past decade, Windows and Red Hat Enterprise Linux have "emerged as mainstays in the data center" and divided them into "Red Hat shops" and "Microsoft shops."
"The idea of proprietary software companies' embracing open source was hard for many to imagine," as that dichotomy took hold, he blogged.
But modern data centres have become "heterogeneous environments that include solutions from both companies," Cormier said. Red Hat "heard from customers and partners that they wanted our solutions to work together -- with consistent APIs, frameworks, management, and platforms."
While the deal isn't Red Hat's first collaboration with Microsoft, it's by far the deepest, he said.
"In historical terms this is a monumental announcement," said Al Hilwa, program director of software development research at market researcher IDC.
But given the changing attitude of Microsoft in recent years, it was only a matter of time, Hilwa wrote in an email.
"This is a win for both companies and for the vast set of customers they have in common," Hilwa said.
While the war between Microsoft and Linux ended years ago, the Red Hat partnership "should act as an epilogue to the troubled narrative," Hilwa said.