What Explains Microsoft's Linux-Centric Moves in China?
In recent years, many people have misunderstood Microsoft's stance toward Linux and toward China, so it's interesting to see debate arising around the company's confidential agreement with Chinese Linux vendor CS2C. According to a statement from Microsoft on the agreement, it will result in "mixed source solutions stemming from this collaboration will be built on Microsoft’s Hyper-V Open Cloud architecture and will include support to run CS2C NeoKylin Linux Server products."
Microsoft will be involved with the deployment of NeoKylin Linux (which is based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux) in China, and some analysts have assumed that it means Microsoft is conceding that Windows won't make it into many Chinese enterprise software deployments, but that's not the case. Microsoft knows that through virtualization companies want to run Linux and Windows at the server level, so that is what Microsoft--wisely--will facilitate.
As ReadWriteWeb notes, market share for the Internet Explorer 9 browser and the Bing search engine are believed to be higher in China than in the U.S., also noting that Microsoft's involvement with NeoKylin Linux "makes it easier for server operators in China to deploy NeoKylin VMs in data centers running Windows Server." Many data centers in China already run Windows Server, but operators want to run Linux too, via virtualization.
In IT departments, managers want to run heterogenous and virtualized environments, taking advantage of multiple operating systems. They don't want to be boxed in to using, say, just Windows Server. Specifically, many of them want to run Linux alongside Windows Server, and that means that Linux distros, the Linux kernel and Windows Server need to be able to play together nicely. We noted here that Microsoft is a leading contributor to the Linux kernel, and that the bulk of those contributions have surrounded Microsoft's own Hyper-V virtualization drivers.
Microsoft and CS2C are also sponsoring a shared virtual technology lab in China for new technologies and cloud computing solutions. Wisely, Microsoft has recognized that IT administrators want flexibility in running both Linux and Windows, and can easily do so through virtualization. Microsoft's only choice is to support that trend as it spreads out.