While Microsoft’s previous
stance on open source systems is well known, it turns out there’s been a serious shift as Microsoft looks to bring more non-.NET programmers into the fold.
On April 12, Jean Paoli, president of a new subsidiary of Microsoft called Microsoft Open Technologies, Inc., wrote about the new initiative. In his words, the subsidiary was created “to advance the company’s investment in openness — including interoperability, open standards and open source.” This is a public step toward working with open source communities and integrating technologies into Microsoft’s closed initiatives, which may not be quite so closed in the future. With that in mind, below I take a look at what’s new with Microsoft and open source.
- Open source projects: Web API and Web Pages (formerly Razor) are the latest in a growing number of Microsoft technologies to become open source projects. (You can check out the announcement on Scott
Guthrie’s blog.) Both are components of ASP.NET, a .NET framework for websites and web application creation. The source code for these new technologies follows the path that predecessor ASP.NET MVC took when it became open source in 2009 and has continued to be so since that time.
- Open source SDKs: In December 2011 the Windows Azure SDK was released as open source.
- Open source libraries and languages: Taking a look at the open source world from a different angle, Microsoft also seems to be embracing open source languages and libraries, notably through opportunities to create Windows
While these projects provide proof that the pendulum is swinging in the open source direction, the impact for Microsoft can and will be much more resounding. New markets, programmers, and communities are at play here if this new tact goes well.
Attracting the polyglot programmers
Hadoop’s halo effect
Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform, is slowly gaining momentum as enterprises make the shift to cloud services. The key word here is “slowly.” On the other hand, Hadoop, an open source Apache project that’s become a central part of the big data movement, has a huge and active community that’s improving the code minute by minute. Supporting
Hadoop on Azure lets Microsoft incorporate the popularity and visibility of an open source project into a Microsoft initiative that needs more exposure.
A marketing signal
With a Microsoft
Openness website that speaks to the relationship it has with open source technologies, and an accompanying Twitter account (@OpenatMicrosoft)
with more than 6,500 followers, the Microsoft marketing team also seems to think open source exposure is important. (Side note: Gianugo Rabellino, Microsoft senior director of open source communities, and one of the people tweeting from the @OpenatMicrosoft account, will be presenting at the OSCON conference this
As Microsoft continues to see viable open source projects gain momentum, you can be sure that it will work on including ways for those languages, libraries, and frameworks to be incorporated into its current and future platforms. But the more meaningful change is that Microsoft is seeing that opening its own technologies to programmers will only make its products better, more accessible, and central to the future of programming.