MS to focus on Unix migration, says Linux strategist

Read the second part of Microsoft's chief Linux strategist, Martin Taylor about his first year in the job.

Read the second part of Microsoft's chief Linux strategist, Martin Taylor about his first year in the job.

For what server workloads have you noted the most activity around Linux?

The biggest uptake on Linux has been in the web server workload. We also have seen on the [application platform] workload the Unix scenario.

Meta recently did a survey of 24 IT professionals and business decision-makers who moved from SAP or PeopleSoft on Unix to Windows. They found about 50% in aggregate decrease in number of servers needed, 50% savings in administrative cost and cost of ownership, and about 25% increase in their abilities - reliability, scalability, availability.

One of the reasons we asked Meta to go talk [to users] before we go spin up a lot of activities in the coming year [is] I need something to really help me understand things such as "What's our value prop there? Do people really see benefit? How do we win over these Unix people that don't want to do Windows? Are there real hard-core cost savings?" 

Do you view your job now as making sure that people plotting a switch of operating systems include Microsoft in the discussion?

It's interesting. That's not my sole job. But I think that one of the things that I want to do a lot more this year is say, "Hey, you're on Unix today. You should at least give Windows a look." 

How are you finding those people?

Many times when some of the decisions are taken, the Microsoft guys are not even there at all, partly because we have a culture coming from the desktop and low-end servers.

Then to have that enterprise high-end discussion, we're just not always even invited. But one way to do it is through partners.

Companies such as Unisys that have enterprise credibility, that are working with those datacentres today, they can consider Microsoft for this solution. They can at least look at them both before making a move. That's where I think we have a huge opportunity with some of our partnerships. 

Which Linux loss bothered you the most?

It depends on how you define a loss. If it's a specific opportunity, I don't feel good about Munich mostly because it keeps coming up.

But a year or so into this, I still get asked. It's like Jason or Freddy of my childhood. You put him in the lake, and he keeps coming back. 

When it [deployment] has nothing to do with cost or security or value. They just want something other than Microsoft. There's nothing I can do at that point.

Pharmaceutical [companies] that are high engineering, mostly high R&D-type companies who want to do it all themselves, also bother me. That's not the market that we're in. We're about providing an operating system that can be used by a lot of people and, to do that, you have to remove complexity and not inject complexity. 

Which wins do you feel best about?

Ones where they just came in with these deep-rooted perceptions: "I know you guys cost more. I know your security is just horrible. I know I can do a lot more things on Linux."

Then we just spend time and move past all the myths, and I'm still amazed at the cloud of myths that exist. ... And I'm just surprised at how many people are moving down paths with no facts to support it. So when I can just share facts with people and kind of open their eyes, I feel good about those wins. 

If you could turn back the clock, is there anything you would have done differently?

I think I've prioritised TCO [total cost of ownership] and security the right way, based on what customers tell me.

However, I would have spent a bit more time on our Unix migration activities, because that's where you continue to see good traction from a Linux perspective. And we actually have a pretty good story to tell. 

Are you seeing much Linux activity as a client operating system?

We're still not seeing a lot of real large, long deployments. I spent two days getting deep on every single Linux distribution on the desktop. That was the best use of my time, because I walked away saying, "Please, please evaluate both."

I want to just go give out Linux to people and say, "Take a look at Linux on the desktop," because the complexity that exists there to put in front of an end user ... it's not ready. Will it get there? Sure. They'll evolve over time. Hopefully we'll evolve, too. 

Have you heard many customers complaining about Microsoft's licensing policies?

I hear a lot less complaints from customers, and I spend half [as much of] my time on licensing than I did a year ago.

[With] all my customers over the past two months, I might have discussed licensing three or four times, whereas it was a guaranteed conversation a year ago. 

Microsoft continues to point to the Linux threat in its filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Do you ever foresee the day when Microsoft can tone down those warnings?

Linux is never going to go away. Linux will still exist in some form even if the open-source community continues to just keep it alive. I think that we're going to continue to, hopefully, win more than we lose. We're on a great trajectory, and we're hoping to continue that momentum both in the server and in the desktop space. 

Will you change your strategy or focus in the coming year?

I think we'll have more innovation-type discussions about the value of the Microsoft platform at a deeper level. As we continue to balance the playing field on TCO and security and reliability, if we're at full parity, then the whole message would just be about value.

We'll spend more time on the Unix migration, and we'll spend more time on some of the more scenario-dependent questions. You'll see more discussions around the [Linux distributions] versus generic Linux.

Carol Sliwa writes for Computerworld

Click here for part one of Martin Taylor's interview >>

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