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Microsoft Embracing Openness with Windows Azure


Microsoft continues to be a lightning rod for controversy in the open source communities. A quick Google search (microsoft open source) shows the breadth of opinions on Microsoft's open source involvement.

  • Microsoft touting it's openness and interoperability.

  • Microsoft Open Source Projects, both internal and it's Codeplex hosting site

  • Microsoft Visual Studio 11 is a blow to Open Source

  • Microsoft spins off new Open Source company

  • Microsoft secure boot requirements will impede free software adoption

In fact, Microsoft has always been very schizophrenic about it's relationship with, well, anything non-microsoft actually. From the famous rants regarding Apple and Google to selling SUSE Linux licenses to on-again-off-again support for Mac OSX to the recent Azure support for 3 Linux distributions, it never seems like there is a cohesive approach to supporting other platforms that often compete with Windows. I personally know a person who recently worked in one division of Microsoft where she felt forced to abandon her beloved Android phone
(owned prior to joining Microsoft) because it was frowned upon.

However, when I went to Seattle to work with the Azure team and opened my MacBook Pro, iPhone, and started my Linux VMs, there was nothing but acceptance and acknowledgement that many of the people there used the same. The Azure teams have recognized that any good open IAAS platform needed to support Linux as a top tier platform in order to appeal to sophisticated
organizations that are concerned with maintain control of the architectural choices important to their businesses. As I met with each team and discussed their roles in creating the Windows Azure IAAS, it became obvious that, in this particular part of the company, Microsoft was serious about dedicating significant resources to making Linux and open source tools a priority.

This fit well with one thing I had always believed would improve my view of Microsoft. I have been using Linux on servers and desktop and open source replacements for many years, but I could also see that there were some products from companies like Microsoft that have always been much better than the open source equivalents, so much so that they were worth using in place of the equivalents. The prime example is MS Office, specifically Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Visio (even Outlook is getting pretty good, if not quite in the same category). Often I've wished that Microsoft could break out of their monolithic vision and provide equivalent versions of these programs that would run on any viable operating system. Finally, decent versions have been release for Mac OSX. Someday, perhaps it really will be the year of the Linux Desktop and we'll see more pressure to support Linux with these apps (especially with the trouble that OpenOffice/Libreoffice has had maintaining any sort of momentum following Oracle's purchase of Sun).

With regards to Open Source, I can't say that Apple has a much better reputation, at least with many in the circles that I frequent. Sure OSX has been built on bsd and there are *nix underpinnings that make OSX a powerful platform to develop on, but they aren't exactly falling over themselves to help enable open platforms. Quite the opposite in many cases with their curated app stores.

Let's remember that these are big companies with many different identities competing inside them and their goals are not often the same. I think it says a lot about the importance of Linux that Microsoft has provided equal stature for Linux VM's running on the platform. For now though, I must applaud the efforts I've seen from the Windows Azure teams and the Microsoft Open Source Technology Center. They are taking notice of the strength of the open source technologies and communities and showing a real commitment to providing an open platform.



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License
Creative Commons License.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License
Creative Commons License.


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