Red Hat, Microsoft Forge Wide-Ranging Cloud Partnership

Two erstwhile rivals come to a patent agreement in a move to help customers embrace the hybrid cloud.

Microsoft, Red Hat cloud partnership

Linux vendor Red Hat has spent much of its existence fighting Microsoft Windows in the marketplace. Today, in a surprising move, Red Hat and Microsoft entered into a broad partnership that will see Red Hat engineers co-located at Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Wash., as the two vendors aim to enable each other's cloud technologies.

"We're in the midst of an exciting transformation in enterprise technology, and I think today's announcement is even more evidence of that," Paul Cormier, executive vice president and president, Products and Technology, at Red Hat said in a live webcast discussing the deal. "Our partnership will help customers embrace hybrid cloud computing by providing greater choice and flexibility."

The Red Hat Microsoft partnership includes multiple elements across the two companies' product portfolios. The deal incorporates integrated support services for hybrid cloud deployment, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) running in Microsoft's Azure Cloud. As part of that effort, Red Hat will be co-locating some of its engineers to Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond.

The goal of the co-location is so that Red Hat and Microsoft engineers can work together in a timely fashion and to make sure that for any customer issues there is no finger-pointing on support; that is, issues will be jointly solved as they come up, without one company pointing a finger to blame the other, Cormier said.

"We don't do this depth and level of support with any other partner at this point," Cormier said.

The Microsoft .NET programming framework is also part of the Red Hat partnership, with enhanced integration into RHEL as well as Red Hat's OpenShift platform-as-a-service. Red Hat first began to support Microsoft .NET on OpenShift in a limited way in March 2014.

"Microsoft will now also use Red Hat Enterprise Linux as the reference and development platform for open-source .NET work inside of Microsoft," Cormier said. "The heart of this relationship is we're bringing our products to work on Microsoft Azure."

As part of that, the Red Hat Cloudforms cloud management technology will be enabled to manage workloads on Microsoft Azure. A customer could now manage workloads on physical, virtual, private cloud and public clouds, including Microsoft Azure, Cormier said. Microsoft will now also join the Red Hat Certified Cloud and Service Provider Program (CCSP).

"What you're seeing today is a comprehensive cloud partnership covering everything from enterprise deployments and application frameworks to developers, platform consistency, management and certification," Cormier said.

Microsoft is enthusiastic about the partnership with Red Hat because of the opportunity it brings to enable hybrid cloud development and deployment.

"There really is a tremendous amount of meat behind this partnership," Scott Guthrie, executive vice president for Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise division, said. "This is a win-win for both as it really enables flexibility and choice for all developers, regardless of their language or the core operating system that they are starting with, to really be able to build even better next-generation applications.

The path to the Microsoft Red Hat partnership has followed a long and winding road over a decade of mistrust and competition. In 2007, Microsoft alleged that open-source software infringes on more than 200 of its patents. Previous Microsoft partnerships with Linux vendors, including SUSE (formerly part of Novell), involved a patent covenant to deal with intellectual property issues. At the time of the Novell deal, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was very clear on his views about Linux patents; he noted that Microsoft's deal was only with Novell SUSE Linux, and others still have an issue with infringing on Microsoft's intellectual property.

In an FAQ posted by Red Hat, the company states, "Red Hat and Microsoft have agreed to a limited patent arrangement in connection with the commercial partnership for the benefit of mutual customers." As opposed to the Novell SUSE patent covenant, the Red Hat Microsoft partnership now provides for what Red Hat is referring to as a patent standstill in the FAQ.

In response to a question from eWEEK, Cormier strongly emphasized that Red Hat remains true to its core open-source principles and is not compromising on them in the Microsoft partnership.

"Red Hat and Microsoft did not acknowledge the validity or value of each other's patents," Cormier said. "This is a commercial deal spurred by strong customer demand for our solutions to work together."

"In order for the deal to work, Scott [Guthrie] and I agreed early on that it would only work if neither of us compromised our core business principles, and we did not," Cormier said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.