MS un-denial leaves Linux option open

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Meta Group has made a bold prediction that Microsoft will deliver some server-side software to run on Linux beginning next year, but Redmond's official "denial" leaves the option wide open. It revives a rumor that's been doing the rounds for two years.

Starting with .NET, thinks Meta Group, Microsoft will eventually move SQL Server and Exchange to the OS, too.

"Microsoft will not be engineering server software expressly for Linux," was the official line from Peter Houston, a senior director at Microsoft's server business.

Which leaves several options un-denied, if you like. One is that since .NET's common language infrastructure (CLI) has already ported to FreeBSD, Microsoft doesn't need to be doing any engineering "expressly for Linux." .NET contains a PAL, or "Platform Adaptation Layer", and UNIX build environment and toolchain.

The second, rather more obvious option, is that even if Microsoft isn't doing the engineering itself, it might be supporting someone else who is.

This is how Microsoft approached the FreeBSD CLI port, with the help of Corel. It's how it's traditionally done Unix ports. Microsoft had a close relationship with Bristol Technologies which ended acrimoniously in litigation: see Official: it's legal to screw Unix - MS beats Bristol rap - a must read.

Microsoft had promoted WISE (Windows Interactive Source Environment) as an "open system" but then deprived Bristol of the source code it needed to ensure compatibility going forward for its Wind/U toolkit.

Developers trusting that NT4 would be "just fucked", said Gates when he discovered Bristol's claims. The two settled in February 2001. Bristol won punitive damages and legal fees under a Connecticut trade practices act. Bristol continues to develop WIND/U, allowing developers on Win32 to target Linux and other UNIX platforms, plus VMS and OS/390. (When Corel agreed to undertake the BSD work, it signed a "Convenant Not To Sue" with The Beast.

Microsoft's preferred partner for this kind of work nowadays is MainSoft, which recently joined the ECMA committee standardization process for cross platform .NET components.

And let's not forget Mono, Ximian's implementation of the .NET run-time, libraries and C# compiler. Miguel de Icaza admires the architecture and elegance of .NET and many folk who have little admiration for Microsoft agree with him. Others don't - quite strongly.

So a Linux port of what Meta rather sweetly describes as its "proprietary application enablers" is entirely feasible, and might not be too far away. But Exchange on Linux?

"Back to Disneyland with you," was how we described the Office on Linux rumors two years ago, and that would be the most sensible reaction to the prospect of seeing native Linux SQL Server or Exchange any time soon. ®

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