Microsoft Counting on Developers to Follow .Net to the Cloud
Microsoft is taking this "both from the perspective of giving our existing .NET developers the confidence that when they find themselves in an environment where they need to build applications and run them on non-Windows machines they can still do that [while] leveraging all of their existing .NET knowledge and skills, as well as opening up the opportunity to engage a new set of developers and customers that come from a more Linux background—especially with the cloud," Schmelzer said. He noted that while some observers may have viewed Microsoft's plans to open-source .NET as perhaps sounding a bit trivial, "We view this as the way software is built today." Besides, "It was time for us to really embrace that, both from being modern in the way we build our software, but also enabling a vibrant ecosystem of commercial and non-commercial developers to confidently build extensions around .NET and really revive and invigorate that ecosystem," Schmelzer said. "Microsoft's strategy here is based on the idea of a much more modular approach," said Mark Driver, an analyst with Gartner. "They want to give developers a plug-and play ability to deploy what they need in certain packages and not just this gigantic, monolithic thing called .NET." Moreover, the cross-platform aspect is Microsoft's attempt to embrace the notion of choice and flexibility for developers.Customer Requests and Linux First But this was not all Microsoft's idea. Customers asked for it and .NET continues to be a very popular framework—not only for building Windows desktop style apps, but also increasingly for Web-based apps. However, Microsoft began getting more and more feedback from its users that they love the framework and they love the productivity that they get from it and the programming languages that Microsoft delivers with Visual Studio. But there were customer requests about ensuring they had flexibility going forward. "A thing we're seeing is that as large organizations are moving to the cloud, most organizations have a desire to simplify their environment," Schmelzer said. "And one way to do that is collapsing down into a core set of operating environments that [they] want to support. The ability for .NET to run cross-platform is something that frees developers up from being concerned about the way that whatever the organization may want to learn as it thinks about its cloud strategy and as it thinks about its execution environment, they know with confidence that their .NET solutions will run in those environments in the cloud. That was a request we were hearing and was one of the motivations for that." Another major motivation was seeing a number of workloads that were being developed for Linux-first, Schmelzer told eWEEK. Big data was one example of that with things like Hadoop. "We want to ensure that the .NET developer is able to take their .NET skill set and apply it into those workloads and do it in a very efficient way," Schmelzer said. "So they will be able to write C# code that extends into a Hadoop solution in a productive way running on Linux. We're opening up those channels for our existing .NET developer base." The idea also is to talk to a new set of developers Microsoft does not talk to so much today. For instance, Schmelzer said, Microsoft had conversations with Groupon's CTO, who expressed satisfaction in hearing that the .NET runtime and virtual machine would be available on Linux because Groupon is a Linux shop.
"The developer landscape has shifted and open source is increasingly seen as table stakes in terms of beginning to attract critical mass in developer skills," said Al Hilwa, an analyst with IDC.