Another country heard from: Why Microsoft should buy Canonical

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There is no dearth of unsolicited advice bubbling up for Microsoft’s new CEO Satya Nadella. As Microsoft forges its cloud path, some (ahem) have opined that it should acquire Red Hat, if only to forge tighter links between Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Microsoft’s Azure cloud.

Now, Simon Wardley (pictured below with friends) argues that Red Hat rival Canonical would be a better, more strategic pick for the cloud era. Canonical is the commercial entity behind Ubuntu Linux and an OpenStack distribution. Wardley, who is a researcher at CSC’s Leading Edge Forum, acknowledged Red Hat as a giant in Linux servers, but characterized it as “a minnow compared to Ubuntu in the public cloud computing space.”

It’s a valid debate and one that can continue at Gigaom Structure next month, when there will be an opportunity to ask Microsoft EVP Scott Guthrie about the company’s cloud plans and the tectonic shifts affecting the cloud ecosystem overall.

Last fall’s OpenStack Foundation survey found that 55 percent of OpenStack workloads run Ubuntu Linux as the host OS, compared to 24 percent for CentOS; 10 percent for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and 10 percent “other.” But Wardley, who has his doubts about OpenStack’s prospects, said Ubuntu’s footprint in the giant non-OpenStack public clouds is more important.

“You can argue over just how much dominance Ubuntu has, whether it’s 60% or 70% of the public space is irrelevant. What matters is Ubuntu is by far the most commonly used guest operating system on Amazon and I would be surprised if this was not the case for Linux on Azure. “

Wardley’s contention is that Red Hat’s success comes in the old-world of single-server nodes running in company data centers, while Canonical has taken cloud by storm. And that is pretty much verbatim what Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth told Gigaom recently. In his view, Red Hat, because of its success in enterprise Linux, is tied to an old enterprise sales model that is largely irrelevant in cloud.

Simon Wardley and minions.

Simon Wardley and minions (Photo courtesy of Brian Katz).

Shuttleworth also had very nice things to say about Azure, pegging it as a credible competitor to the AWS public cloud juggernaut. For more from Shuttleworth (pictured above) check out the Structure Show podcast below:

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In Wardley’s view, Nadella could also parlay Canonical’s mobile expertise now that Nokia is officially part of the company. His recommendation is that Microsoft swap out Nokia’s Android phone for an Ubuntu version. After all now that Microsoft is in the device business, why should it feed into a market pretty much owned by Samsung?

Wardley also argues that Canonical’s Cloud Foundry ties would give Microsoft influence on that open-source PaaS effort — something I’m still trying to get wrap my mind around.

Anyway, please check out Wardley’s post and feel free to add your two cents here. One thing is clear, Microsoft, with in excess of $87 billion in cashcould pretty much buy anything it wants, so why not speculate?

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