Microsoft Plays Well With Open Source

Microsoft continues its efforts to woo open-source developers and to support technologies that can enhance the company's developer base and bottom line.

PORTLAND, Ore. €” As Microsoft is all about developers, the company is willing to go wherever it must to reach developers where they live including the open-source world.

That Microsoft is supporting open-source development efforts is not new, but that it is doing it so purposefully and methodically may come as a surprise to some. Indeed, Gianugo Rabellino, senior director of open-source communities at Microsoft Open Technologies, said he has yet to meet everybody in the company involved with open-source technology and he has not tired of looking.

€œWhen I got to Microsoft two years ago, I underwent three days of interviews€”25 interviews in all€”before I got the job,€ Rabellino told eWEEK at the O€™Reilly Open Source Convention 2012 (OSCON) here. €œSo the first thing my boss, Jean Paoli told me to do was to go around and meet everybody who has anything to do with open source at Microsoft. And believe it or not, I€™m still not done.€

Rabellino, who has 20 years of experience in open source, including building and maintaining communities, said he continues to be impressed with Microsoft€™s efforts to €œplay well with others€ in the world of open source.

Of course it was not always this way. Early on, Microsoft fought hard to beat back the influx of Linux in the enterprise and attempted to discredit open source. Yet when it became clear that developers were going to open-source software in droves, the company pursued an if-you-can€™t-beat-'em-join-'em course and began to make overtures toward the open-source community. Now Microsoft supports open-source development, contributing code to the Linux kernel, enabling Linux workloads to run on its Windows Azure cloud computing platform, working with the Eclipse Foundation, and contributing to the Apache Software Foundation and being the sole Premier Diamond Sponsor of OSCON 2012.

A blurb on the OSCON site describing Microsoft€™s interest in OSCON and open source said:

€œMicrosoft recognizes the industry need for interoperability€”as there is a greater shift toward mixed environments€”and builds interoperability between Microsoft and non-Microsoft technologies, including open-source software and applications. The company recently announced a new wholly owned subsidiary, known as Microsoft Open Technologies, to further advance Microsoft's existing investment in openness€”including interoperability, open standards and open source. Microsoft recognizes the need for diverse IT applications and systems to effectively and efficiently exchange information to foster industry growth and innovation, provide greater consumer choice, and help maximize return on IT investments.€

In an onstage interview with Rabellino, OSCON 2012 emcee Edd Dumbill asked whether Microsoft€™s interest in open source was just another way to maintain market share by supporting development outside the core Microsoft platform. €œI think any company needs to listen to the market,€ Rabellino replied.

Yet not only is Microsoft listening to the market, but the industry and open-source developers are interested in what open-source projects Microsoft chooses to get behind. Dumbill said it is €œinteresting to see€ which projects Microsoft will choose to support next. €œThere are lots of things we want to do that are important for the industry and important for Microsoft,€ Rabellino said. €œFor instance, we want people to be able to run their Linux workloads on our cloud.€

Moreover, €œwhen it comes to choosing projects, we try to understand what developers want,€ Rabellino said. €œWhen it comes to future endeavors, what we need to do is have our ears to the ground and see where developers are going.€

Rabellino said he is proud of the work Microsoft has done in the open-source world, particularly its efforts to support Node.js and its contributions to the Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP) and the Open Data Protocol (OData), among others. He also said Microsoft€™s support for open standards, such as JavaScript, which now permeates the Windows platform and Microsoft€™s tooling, is an indication that the company is willing to meet developers where they live.

Still, Microsoft continues to suffer image problems in the open-source community. Old wounds are not so easily healed. However, Rabellino said, €œWe are making a lot of progress. The perception has changed, and we are moving to the technology level. I say let€™s talk about code. Code talks.€