In a move that would have been unthinkable a decade ago, Microsoft today announced it is becoming a Platinum member of the Linux Foundation. As a Platinum member, Microsoft will provide $500,000 a year to the Linux Foundation and pledges to support the group's open-source and Linux efforts.
Microsoft has been moving incrementally toward embracing Linux and open source over the last eight years, though the interaction with the Linux community initially was somewhat hostile.
Back in 2001, Steve Ballmer, then CEO of Microsoft, famously said that Linux is cancer. In 2007, Microsoft alleged that open-source software, including Linux, infringes on 235 of Microsoft's patents.
"This is a good day. There was a time when the software industry in general was defined by rivalry and a zero-sum game mentality," Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, told eWEEK. "The biggest thing that open source and Linux has proven over the last 25 years is that sharing works, and you can better yourself and others at the same time."
Zemlin traced Microsoft’s journey to embrace open source back to 2008, when the company joined the Apache Software Foundation. In 2009, Microsoft became one of the largest contributors to Linux, by way of its code for enabling Hyper-V virtualization support. Subsequently, Microsoft has open-sourced multiple efforts, including .NET and, earlier this year, PowerShell.
"Tens of thousands of lines of code have been open-sourced by Microsoft," Zemlin said.
In Zemlin's view, Microsoft has clearly demonstrated it is a meaningful player in the open-source movement. Microsoft employs more software developers than any other single company, he said, and it's his hope the company will have a big, positive impact on the Linux Foundation community.
The Linux Foundation itself has expanded in recent years to be about more than just Linux. It has launched multiple Linux Foundation Collaborative Projects including the Hyperledger Project for bitcoin and the Core Infrastructure Initiative (CII) for internet security, among other endeavors. Zemlin commented that Microsoft already has been participating in multiple Linux Foundation Collaborative Projects including CII, node.js Foundation, OpenAPI and the OpenDaylight Project for software-defined networking (SDN).
"Microsoft is an organization that participates across many of the open-source projects that the Linux Foundation hosts," Zemlin said. "It's natural that now they will be joining the Linux Foundation at our highest level, which we're happy to see."
Microsoft's $500,000 yearly Platinum membership dues will help the Linux Foundation in its many efforts to advance Linux and open-source technology. Zemlin noted membership supports the Linux Foundation's efforts including secure coding programs, diversity outreach and infrastructure development among other activities.
"Our goal is to create the greatest shared technology resource in history and Linux is the primary example of that, but there are lots of others, too," Zemlin said. "In order for that to happen, we need to have vibrant communities that have a rich developer ecosystem and all the infrastructure that's needed to develop new code, bring new developers in, train developers and host events."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.