Sam Ramji, Microsoft's senior director of platform strategy describes the company's evolving open-source involvement in this eWEEK interview.
Ramji is focused on Linux and open source, which is more significant when you
consider that he works for Microsoft.
Ramji leads Microsoft's
platform strategy efforts across the company, including long-term strategic
planning in the Windows Server and Tools organization. But Ramji's primary
focus is to drive Microsoft's Linux and open-source strategy, working together
with Microsoft technology development teams and open-source communities to
build interoperable solutions.
Ramji sat down with eWEEK Senior Editor Darryl K. Taft
at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention at the end of July.
What are the announcements Microsoft is going to make
here at OSCON?
First of all, for the first time Microsoft will be submitting a
patch to a GPL V2 [General Public License Version 2]-based project. The second
thing is we've put an enormous number-over 10 and close to 150-of our protocols
and formats into a perpetually royalty-free license.
That includes all of the
Office binary specifications, and this is really relevant to a specific
project called Apache Poi, which is an Apache-licensed Java implementation of
Microsoft binary file formats. It's growing to include Open
And the third and final big chunk is that Microsoft is becoming
a sponsor of the Apache Software Foundation.
So what was the GPL V2 project
you submitted the patch to?
It is ADOdb. ADOdb is a PHP project that is a data access layer
a lot of PHP applications use. In February we launched Windows Server 2008,
which included support for PHP on Windows Server. Since then the SQL Server
team has shipped a PHP-native driver for SQL Server, which is a dramatic
improvement to the previous access technology that existed. And this is the
first step in taking that set of technologies and making it available all the
way up the PHP stack.
So if you think about the whole stack, you need an operating
system, you need a database, then you've got substacks within PHP. You've got
things like ADOdb for data access, then in the future you can expect us to do
more contributions to the application layer-things like photo sharing, bulletin
boards and content management systems.
So this is the first, and it was a big deal. It took a long
time to figure out the way we could do that in a way that protected the project
and protected Microsoft, and everybody had the right rights. I think there
are some things that IBM figured out and put
into practice over the last decade, and Microsoft is starting to figure out how
to do that.
I think that's the twofold
significance of the news. First, that we're contributing all the way up to
drive PHP on Windows Server 2008 and future versions of the server, and
doing that with a level of sophistication understanding how that app layer
works. And, second, we're figuring out the mechanics of how we can submit patches
to GPL V2 projects.
So what is the significance of this submission?
It's something that we hadn't figured out how to do before.
We've contributed code to open-source projects like MPICH2, which is a parallel
programming stack that is managed by Argonne National Labs. That was the first
big contribution to a third-party open-source project that Microsoft made. A
lot of people have thought that GPL V2 was just an area that we would not be
able to contribute to, just based on our licensing and our take on how
intellectual property applies to software. We figured that having a line of
sight into open-source technologies was going to be good for us after there
were a couple of viable projects.