Microsoft Open Source Strategy: a chat with Hank Janssen

I have been following Microsoft open source strategy from 3 years or so now, and they are not an exception: adaptation is a gradual process at Microsoft too.

Hank Janssen, Director of Program Management at the Microsoft Open Source Technology Center,  over these days is traveling around Europe, and yesterday we had an interesting conversation about how open source things are going at Microsoft these days.

One year ago you were going to a Moodle conference, here in Rome. What’s happened next?

There have been many projects we have been working on since we met last year. Here is just a small set of what we have done since we met.

The IIS team released the platform installer, which simplifies the installation of web infrastructure on a Windows server. Installing everything from installing and configuring everything that is needed for IIS, SQL Server express and even PHP. It also has a ever increasing gallery of open source web applications like dotnetnuke, Drupal and wordpress among many others.

We released many value adds to PHP, such as Windows Azure connectivity from any PHP application and even the ability to run PHP completely in Windows Azure.

Specifically, Microsoft released several plugins in August this year that integrate several of the Live services into
Moodle
. They have been released in GPL V2.

I would say that Microsoft contributing to the Linux kernel showed new capacities to be flexible, a promising adaptive trait.

Any other things you want to add, also in this respect?

But there are two things that I wanted to really highlight.

In June of 2009 the community released PHP 5.3, our combined work with the community made PHP 5.3 the best PHP ever for Windows. A lot of work went in to that release by many people from both the community and Microsoft.

In July of 2009 we ended up doing something that nobody ever thought we would. Namely contribute to the Linux Kernel. We contributed the drivers that enable Linux to be in the best way possible to be virtualized on top of Hyper-V. And we are committed to enhancing those drivers, we have many plans to add many more features.

And finally, one the engineers in my group got commit priviliges directly into the PHP Core engine. This means Microsoft in the first time in history now has engineers contributing directly to community open source projects.

Microsoft started by partnering with vendors, but more recently it is working also with some open source community projects.
What did you learn so far?

We learned an awful lot.
We got a lot of feedback from many areas of open source community. Very little of it bad, most of it very good and quite a few people that were shocked by the things we have done so far.

The Open Source world is a large world with many projects and people. And every project has often different rules for participating and contributing. I think a major learning also is that when Microsoft and OS communities engage, we really have much more in common than not.

Thank you Hank, keep up with your good work, and happy hacking!

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11 thoughts on “Microsoft Open Source Strategy: a chat with Hank Janssen

  1. This strategy is definitely not “choice beyond marketing” as the writer’s banner suggests. Having ownership of the name Open Source Foundation is a marketing step. Googling “open source” will now discover Microsoft’s foundation at or near the top of the list. Using the word “Foundation” suggests to the public that the organization is the founder of open source, another marketing step.

    Adding code to Linux and PHP so they work better with Microsoft products is a marketing step for their own programs.

    When the reverse is true where Microsoft engineers its products to work better with open source programs from other contributers, that can be called “beyond marketing”.

  2. A suggestion for some future questions about Microsoft’s open source strategy might include specific questions around its strategy of selling Linux-related patents to patent trolls.

    Only trouble for Microsoft was that it got caught out in its latest attempt.

    Microsoft’s hall of shame detailed for example in these two links >
    http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20090908164954318
    http://press.redhat.com/2009/09/09/microsoft-and-patent-trolls/

    So please explain to me again how Microsoft is now a reformed anti-competitive bully, because its double-dealing clandestine actions sure look like anti-competitive behavior to me.

    Microsoft actions as you have outlined them are all simply self-serving attempts to lock in open source PHP projects to run on top of Microsoft IIS, SQL Server, and Azure platforms, that are more expensive than open source alternatives. This benefits nobody but Microsoft, and is therefore hardly something that justifies bouquets of flowers.

  3. This strategy is definitely not “choice beyond marketing” as the writer’s banner suggests. Having ownership of the name Open Source Foundation is a marketing step. Googling “open source” will now discover Microsoft’s foundation at or near the top of the list. Using the word “Foundation” suggests to the public that the organization is the founder of open source, another marketing step.
    Adding code to Linux and PHP so they work better with Microsoft products is a marketing step for their own programs.
    When the reverse is true, where Microsoft engineers its products to work better with open source programs from other contributers, that can be called “beyond marketing”.

  4. It amazes me that people want to be so forgiving of Microsoft given their history and the fact that they can’t speak without telling half truths and outright lies.

    Microsoft has been saying on the one hand that they want to promote interoperability, but except when forced to do so, that interoperability is all one way, and that way is a way that leads to lock in to the Microsoft platform and file formats.

    In addition, Microsoft’s behaviour with regard to standards is appalling. Their gaming of the ISO standards system to ram through the OOXML standard is disgraceful and if there were any justice, they would be sanctioned and have their unimplementable standard revoked.

    I would love to see Microsoft actually turn over a new leaf and be a good citizen that the open source community could trust and work with, but as long as they continue to say how they want to play nice with the open source community, but then turn around and actively work to undermine it, as most recently demonstrated by their attempted sale of patents to patent trolls for the purpose of attacking Linux and open source, then I would not only not trust them, but would actively discourage others from doing so either.

    I lay the blame for Microsoft’s bad behaviour with regard to open source squarely at the feet of the current leadership of the company, specifically Ballmer. He is a plague on the software industry and the sooner he retires the better.

  5. You people think you have to own everything. I’m sick of being compelled to use your lowest common denominator crap software. Don’t crap in Linux’s punchbowl, parasite. Don’t infect Linux with your mediocrity. Don’t act like you’re the friend of anyone. Linux has come as far as it has in spite of your best efforts to kill it. This “un-American cancer” is only toxic to you, and it is going to bury you. Welcome to the dustbin of technology. Its too late for you to posture as if you care about your customers any more than a heroin dealer does. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

  6. @techdog I think we are not our past, we just got to learn from it. Look at ODF Plugfests. They are a reality by now, and I am helping to organize the next one, and Microsoft will be actively taking part to be interoperable with other ODF implementors.

    @Frank Daley I have been mentioning the IP issue in past blog posts is a sensitive matter, but it is not easy to get general answers from opensourcers at Microsoft on this, being a transversal issue.

    Talking about Microsoft’s adaptation to the open source world, I believe that enabling also Microsoft customers to get advantage of some open source platforms is a win-win. All in all more people will learn about open source software, perception is always the first step towards knowledge.

    @Stomfi @333242 I believe that there are other reasons behind the idea to create a foundation than suggesting to the public that the organization is the founder of open source. I don’t know yet if Sam Ramji and his team will be doing something interesting or not, I will probably cover this issue at a later stage, though.

    Adding code to Linux and PHP is not a marketing choice, but actually offering Microsoft customers the opportunity to work with both worlds, as they want to. Adaptation in this case came out of necessity, I would say.

  7. @Roberto, I hope your motive is not to sanitize Microsoft. They are beyond redemption, their record say’s that well and truly. They wish to have the FLOSS community working with and for them. I hope you’re not Astroturfing for them. I say I hope because neither I nor anyone else can read what’s inside your head. I just hope it’s not a Richard.

    Anyway, good luck with trying to clean up their image among real Programmers.

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