Opinion: Microsoft talks rapprochement with open source

Platform strategy manager Andrew Gordon says Mircrosoft embraces OS

Often in the pages of this and other publications, much has been made of the different business models and development approach taken by open source software and proprietary vendors such as Microsoft. Many of those articles exaggerated the differences and did so to drive a variety of agendas and individual interests. Whilst it is not possible to re-write history, it is possible to learn from it, change approach and focus on the common ground. This creates a platform to build the products and solutions customers are asking for.

Having listened to our customers, Microsoft has been working with the open source community, industry groups, Government and standards organisations to deliver software solutions that meet customer requirements.

Microsoft now has a permanent Open Source Technology Centre (OSTC) staffed by open source experts providing the foundation for our collaboration and interoperability efforts. The OSTC team are responsible for our contributions to the Linux kernel – these additions allow Linux distributions to run efficiently as guests on a Windows virtualisation platform (Hyper-V).

Our work with Silverstripe is a prime example of our enthusiasm to collaborate with open source software companies. Silverstripe has recently achieved “Certification for Windows Server 2008 R2” for version 2.4.0 of its flagship product, Silverstripe CMS.

Sigurd Magnusson, cofounder and Business Relationship Manager of Silverstripe says at least half of their customers manage predominantly Windows Server IT environments and are now able to deploy the Silverstripe software on the Microsoft platform. He acknowledges this opens up a diverse new market and is confident greater interoperability with the Windows platform will contribute to further success down the track.

There are many facts and figures that could be used to convince you that Microsoft has been successful in working with the open source community and is committed to doing so in the future. Ultimately though, you will have to form your own opinion based on your experiences using our products and working with us.

This is a broader initiative than just working more closely with open source. By adopting a policy of openness in all areas of product design, development, operation and documentation we have created a truly open platform. That includes providing comprehensive documentation for our Application Programming Interfaces, adopting open standards based file formats and providing Linux and Unix extensions to Microsoft Systems Management products.

You may ask why openness is relevant and there are many reasons, no doubt prioritised differently by different people. For Microsoft the main reason is the cloud. While still relatively nascent, business leaders are excited about the possibilities that cloud services can offer their organisations. At the same time, these leaders also face concerns around the security implications, application support and data sovereignty risks. One of Microsoft’s cloud offerings – Windows Azure – has been built from the ground up as an open platform to address these risks. In addition to supporting Microsoft technologies, it will also support: popular open source development languages such as: PHP, Ruby on Rails, Python and Java; key pillars of data portability such as: XML, JSON, SOAP and REST; and established authentication standards such as: OpenID, SAML and WS-Trust. There are already examples of open source applications running on Windows Azure.

No doubt, some people will still be sceptical. To those people, we would encourage you to talk to us and give us a chance to tell you more about our efforts in this space. We hope this can become a dialogue and we look forward to feedback and ideas for how we can further improve our openness efforts.

Gordon is Platform Strategy Manager for Microsoft New Zealand

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