Colleague Orin Thomas recently posted a Tweet about all the “Microsoft ❤️ Linux” fervor that’s been running around recently, noting that it’d be easy for a Windows admin to start wondering if they’d gotten on the wrong bus at some point. For me, it’s an interesting discussion.
Now, don’t take any of the following as a serious proposal – it isn’t. Think of this article as more of a fun thought experiment, one that will have zero impact on the real world. Don’t get upset with me – we’re just pulling a thread here, not planning out the world’s future.
So, let’s ask ourselves…
Could Microsoft ditch Windows Server?
Some rules for the discussion:
- This isn’t about “should they,” or “will they,” because I don’t think they will. Taking this question too seriously will make this not-fun ;).
- This also isn’t about Windows client, which has a different place in the universe.
So imagine for a moment that Microsoft pulled together their own Linux distro, perhaps forking some popular one like CentOS or Ubuntu or something. Such a distro wouldn’t need a built-in GUI, because Windows Server – in 2016’s Nano – is already moving away from having a GUI anyway.
So, without “Windows,” what would Microsoft be missing?
- Exchange Server doesn’t run on Linux, but it’s about to not run on Windows, either, as Microsoft inexorably pushes toward Exchange as an online-only offering.
- SQL Server
doesn’t run on Linux, eitheroops, yes it does.
- SharePoint Server doesn’t run on Linux… but honestly, there’s little reason it couldn’t. It’s just a website, and it uses SQL Server as a back-end. Microsoft is also gradually pushing this toward an online service, although less aggressively given the amount of local storage many organizations use.
- AD doesn’t run on Linux, but Microsoft is also slowly setting up the path away from that as a dedicated on-prem offering, too, moving instead toward distributed, federated identity. And Linux already supports Kerberos, which is the underlying protocol for AD.
- PowerShell and DSC both run on Linux now, albeit in somewhat abbreviated fashion – but that support will build out over time, just as it did on Windows.
Those’re the biggest reasons, from a purely Microsoft worldview, to run Windows Server – and they point toward a world where, for those things, we could perhaps get by without Windows. Oh, I know, we’ve all got a jillion other apps we run on Windows Server, but I’m also not seriously suggesting Microsoft is actually going to ditch Windows Server in favor of a Linux distro. Not at all! But you do start to see that Microsoft is hitching their fortunes less tightly to a specific OS – while at the same time continuing to evolve that OS to be a more effective datacenter competitor. Because I do think Win2016 is a better datacenter competitor. The difference is that Microsoft acknowledges that the OS needs to earn its place in the datacenter, and other products should be able to compete on their own merits, without the direct tie to a specific OS. The OS stands on its own (and I do think Win2016 does a stellar job of that).
But is there a serious real-world takeaway for you, as a Windows admin? You bet. Diversify. It’s easy enough to future-proof your career by making sure you can administer whatever your organization takes a shine to.