Microsoft's Ray Ozzie Talks Open Source, Azure and More

Microsoft's chief software architect, Ray Ozzie, in an interview with eWEEK at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference, delved into a series of subjects, most prominently open source and interoperability, software modeling, and the Windows Azure cloud operating system.

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Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's chief software architect, took time out of a very busy schedule to chat with eWEEK Senior Editor Darryl K. Taft at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles. Ozzie, who sets the tone for Microsoft's overall software strategy, finally got the opportunity to unveil part of his grand design for the future of Microsoft, in the form of Windows Azure-Microsoft's cloud operating system.

Ozzie spoke with eWEEK about Azure, but also about a variety of subjects, including open source, interoperability, software modeling and domain-specific languages. In making his mark with Azure, Ozzie also signals to the world that he is in charge.

How much of Microsoft's increased interest in interoperability and support for open source comes from you?

It's hard to personalize it like that. Like in any big organization, the way you do any kind of change management is my simple rule of thumb: You say something, you do a symbolic public hanging of something, and then you have to find somebody at the edge who's actually going to be the change agent who drives things through. You just can't make change happen when you're at that level, that many levels of abstraction removed from where the work actually gets done.

So, have I been a proponent? Absolutely. Absolutely. And not in interoperability for interoperability's sake-interoperability because that's what customers do, that's what customers want, that's what customers need.

Read here how Microsoft's Azure could usher in the cloud as a commodity.

There was an allergy in some sectors within Microsoft interop because they thought it was a code word for "do what people don't want us to do. ... Do what people are telling us to do, and we're required to do." But coming from my background, it's what people do, it's what they need. And we should be comfortable in our own skin with who we are. Like, what's the big deal, why be so insecure? We are Microsoft; it's OK. We can actually have connections.

So, yeah, I've tried to set the tone. I've done a couple of things internally that it would be the inverse of the public hanging. It would be a lot of attention to something that is doing something good. But really it's just mainly the people in Bob's [Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business] group who have just started to do that.

One technology a lot of people look to and call for more openness on is Silverlight. Do you have any plans to open up Silverlight in any way?

Like what kind of openness are you talking about?

Well, at the very least putting it under the OSP [Microsoft's Open Specification Promise].

They can just go get the Mono source code and start playing with that. Or Moonlight. That's Miguel's [de Icaza, head of the Mono project and the Moonlight effort to run Silverlight on Linux] project. They don't need our source code; they've got theirs.

I think people, including Miguel, feel like there should be more from Microsoft.

OK. I'll accept what you said. Honestly, I haven't heard that, but we travel in different circles. But are you saying-was the question, Will we consider open-sourcing it?

That is a question. I think I know the answer, and the answer is no.

I'll just give you my perspective. If there was a benefit to open-sourcing something, a benefit, like a customer benefit, then I don't see why we wouldn't think about it. I mean, we open-sourced a lot of the .NET Framework.

To me it's a very pragmatic choice. I think any company these days, any technology provider, even Microsoft, has to find the right balance of being a contributor and user of open source. If you look at what Apple has done with WebKit-actually if you look at Apple's entire stack, it's masterful in its use of different licenses and different code.

Microsoft, we make our money on proprietary software, but there are areas where interoperability is important, there are areas where cross-platform implementations that we might not pay enough attention to might be important that we would consider it. But I can't say in the Silverlight case. I just hadn't heard it. I mean, I think on the Mac we should be doing such a bang-up job that nobody would care about open source on the Mac. We're doing it for Nokia. I think we're doing it for Windows. So, that leaves Linux.