Enterprise Linux Log

Nov 10 2008   9:43PM GMT

Microsoft’s embrace of open source could signal turnaround

Don Rosenburg Profile: Dkr

Microsoft used last week’s ApacheCon as a platform to reach out to the open source community in a public way.

In his keynote last Friday, Sam Ramji, Microsoft’s senior director of platform strategy, told the Apache faithful that Microsoft is serious about partnering with the open source community to create open standards and interoperability. Collaboration on the fundamentals will promote healthy growth, competition and a new round of innovation and will enable customers to allocate IT dollars for constructive uses instead of overcoming infrastructure bottlenecks.

The most recent example of Microsoft’s collaboration with its open source counterparts was its recent decision to join the Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP) Working Group for improving message interoperability at the application level, which is currently very difficult without expensive proprietary solutions. But Microsoft is also boosting interoperability with open source in Web services, security, databases and network monitoring, Ramji said. This past spring, Microsoft reached an interoperability “milestone” between Soap and Apache’s Axis Web services protocols, he added.

“I’m an eternal optimist. I’d have to be after three years of leading open source at Microsoft,” Ramji said. “There’s been a big shift in a short period of time,” involving hundreds of steps in a company with 93,000 employees, he said.

Ramji’s embrace of open source was echoed, if somewhat less strongly, in a speech last Friday in Australia by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and reported in a CNET blog by Matt Asay. In response to a question about its Internet Explorer browser, Ballmer said Microsoft is unlikely to make Explorer open source because of its proprietary extensions, but he didn’t reject the suggestion out of hand. The measured tone of Ballmer’s response, Asay wrote, “could well be the most rational, pragmatic, open-source-related comment from Ballmer that I’ve ever read.”

Ballmer’s comment suggests that Microsoft has finally recognized that open source can be a useful component of its overall software strategy, Asay concluded.

In other words, Microsoft may finally have decided to stop fighting open source and instead begin to find areas where the two communities can help each other. And that’s a good thing.

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