Windows is starting to look a lot like Linux -- and vice versa. As the feature sets and use cases for these two operating systems converge, the line separating the Windows and Linux ecosystems is disappearing. Here's why, and what it means for the channel.

Until a few years ago, there was little question that Windows and Linux were different worlds. They ran different types of apps: You couldn't host IIS on Linux, for example, and you couldn't run Docker on Windows. They required different skill sets and certifications. Companies that specialized in software or support for one type of operating system did not typically work with the other one.

The Converging Linux and Windows Ecosystems

Yet in many -- though not all -- ways, this situation has changed markedly in just a few years. Consider the following:

  • You can now run Bash -- the command-line environment that most Linux systems use by default -- on Windows. That means people with Linux CLI experience can put their skills to work on Windows, too. It also makes it easier for Windows admins to manage apps designed for Linux.
  • Docker now runs natively on Windows, too. That's a big deal as the Docker ecosystem explodes.
  • If you run Windows in the cloud -- even if you use Azure, Microsoft's public cloud service -- it's easy to run Windows and Linux servers alongside one another. Azure features robust support for all of the mainstream Linux distributions.
  • Virtualization technologies like VMware and KVM are now very mature. They make the experience of running a Windows virtual server on a Linux host, or a Linux virtual server on a Windows host, seamless.
  • Microsoft's declaration of its "love" for open source has made it easier for the open source community to embrace the Windows world. Sure, some Linux fans still fear Redmond, and not everyone is truly in love with open source. But by and large, relations between the Windows and Linux ecosystems are much more peaceable today than they were for most of these operating systems' histories.

These changes do not mean that the boundary separating Windows from Linux has totally disappeared. Important differences remain, at both technical and cultural levels. Most applications are not binary-compatible between the two operating systems. The design, philosophy and motives of the communities that develop them vary.

By and large, however, it's hard to see Windows and Linux as the polar opposites they once were. For the channel, that means that it's time to stop thinking of Linux and Windows as an either/or proposition. Increasingly, you need to be ready to engage the communities and partner ecosystems surrounding each of these platforms.