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Microsoft Snags Oracle’s Main Man on Linux

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.Photograph by Richard Morgenstein — Microsoft

Here’s a really interesting tidbit for software geeks: Wim Coekaerts, a long-time Oracle veteran who helped transform that company into a Linux power, is now a corporate vice president at Microsoft.

It’s yet another indication that Microsoft, under chief executive Satya Nadella, is serious about embracing Linux and open-source software. And that’s a notion that long-time open source proponents still find hard to understand. They remember when former Microsoft chief exec Steve Ballmer likened Linux and open-source to cancer

Linux is a popular free open-source operating system that runs many of the world’s computer servers. Customers pay for support and maintenance, but the software itself generally costs less that proprietary software that is the core of companies like Oracle (ORCL) and Microsoft (MSFT).

Red Hat Linux Now Has a Home on Microsoft’s Cloud

Linux competes with proprietary operating systems like Unix, which is now on the decline. It also competes against Microsoft Windows Server, so in one very big respect, Microsoft is letting the fox into the hen house. But it’s also setting up its database to compete better with Oracle’s database in larger companies.

Coekaerts started at Microsoft in March as corporate vice president of enterprise open source, according to his Linkedin profile. The news of his job change was first reported by ZDNet. Fortune reached out to Coekaerts, Oracle, and Microsoft for comment and will update this story as needed.

Ten or so years ago most of Oracle’s market-leading databases ran on Unix. Now most run on Linux, and some on Windows, both of which are more modern and less expensive than Unix.

Steve Ballmer’s life after Microsoft

Last month, Microsoft announced that its Windows-focused SQL Server database would soon also run on Linux. That was something of a bombshell and definitely an attack on Oracle’s database franchise.

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In related open-source news, Red Hat (RHT) and Microsoft recently made it possible for joint customers to run Red Hat Enterprise Linux on Microsoft’s Azure cloud infrastructure. Red Hat is the leading flavor of Linux used by big businesses. Oracle fields its own version of Linux that competes with Red Hat Linux.