Linux Foundation Gets a Surprising New Member: Microsoft

The software giant, which was once strongly opposed to the concept of open-source software but has since shifted its mindset on the issue, joined the Linux Foundation with a high-ranking platinum membership on Wednesday.

For decades, the competition between Microsoft and the open-source community was the stuff of legend.

Microsoft, which built its multibillion-dollar business on the idea that software should cost money and be licensed, once denounced the open-source operating system Linux in the toughest of terms. Former CEO Steve Ballmer, in separate comments, called Linux both “communism” and “a cancer.”

But Ballmer is no longer in charge—and his replacement, Satya Nadella, has built a base around cloud computing, which leans heavily on open-source software. The company contributes heavily to open-source projects on GitHub and has recently teamed with a number of companies built on open-source software.

Nowhere is this new mindset better reflected than in the company’s decision to join the Linux Foundation in a big way: Rather than simply joining as an organization, Microsoft is taking a role as a platinum member—a high-ranking membership level with 10 other companies, mostly hardware and enterprise firms, such as Intel, Samsung, IBM, and Oracle. (For comparison’s sake, other name-brand companies with stronger traditional ties to open-source software, like Facebook and Google, are merely gold members.)

“As a cloud platform company we aim to help developers achieve more using the platforms and languages they know,” Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise Group Executive Vice President Scott Guthrie said in a news release. “The Linux Foundation is home not only to Linux, but many of the community’s most innovative open source projects. We are excited to join The Linux Foundation and partner with the community to help developers capitalize on the shift to intelligent cloud and mobile experiences.”

The company’s John Gossman, who works on the company’s Azure cloud team, will join the Linux Foundation board.

Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin emphasized that Microsoft’s membership in the group is important for the future of open-source software.

“The company has become an enthusiastic supporter of Linux and of open source and a very active member of many important projects,” he noted. “Membership is an important step for Microsoft, but also for the open source community at large, which stands to benefit from the company’s expanding range of contributions.”

Satya Nadella, Microsoft's current CEO. (Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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