How Microsoft Became an Unlikely Open Source Champion

Mitch Wagner
2/20/2018
50%
50%

Enterprises are sometimes resistant to open source. They're concerned about being able to keep up with the myriad projects under development, and knowing which is right for them. Microsoft advises those enterprises: "You shouldn't go out and use the latest and greatest," according to Gossman. Enterprises starting out with open source should stick with mature projects, such as Red Hat, Java and Hadoop. And it turns out enterprises are already using those technologies, even if they are officially still resistant to open source.

The focus on mature projects is reflected in Microsoft's own views on which open source projects are important. Linux, "obviously," is very important to Microsoft, Gossman says -- "it's the basis of a lot of things." Also languages, including .NET and C#, TypeScript, Go, Python, Ruby, Java and C++. Also important: Container projects, such as Docker and Kubernetes, as well as big data such as Hadoop, Mongo, MySQL and Postgres. "With the exception of Kubernetes, these are mature projects that have been around for five to 15 years or longer," Gossman says. "These are the ones that we see used the most."

Gossman adds, "These are also the ones that we use ourselves." Microsoft's Skype service runs on Linux, as does LinkedIn, which also relies on the Kafka data streaming platform. "And even independent of LinkedIn, we are one of the largest Kafka users in the world," Gossman says.

Another concern from enterprises about open source is that software developers will walk out with the company intellectual property. But the reality is that code is less important than people, Gossman says. Non-engineers think code is more important than it actually is.

"I have seen people who are not software people think that there is more value in the code than there is in people who can write the code," Gossman say. "You can have the code and if you don't have the developers there is not much you can do. But if you have the developers you are in good shape whether you have the code or not."

Organizations looking to become more proficient in open source should look to resources from the Linux Foundation on how to manage and use open source projects, and how to build an open source program office, Gossman says.

Making the transition to open source can be a lot of work, particularly when a company considers releasing its own internal code to open source, Gossman says. Open source needs community to be worthwhile -- it needs people outside your organization contributing to the code. Code often needs to be rewritten, to be sure the comments are helpful and that the code is properly documented. Internal software projects often rely on what Gossman calls "lore" -- internal discussion between development teams -- that outsiders will not be privy too. All of that needs to be documented.

And companies need to devote people to making sure code developed by the community is reviewed and accepted. "It's bad practice if somebody puts out a pull request and nobody looks at it for six months," Gossman says.

Why bother? Because it gets results. For example, Microsoft open sourced .NET about five years ago. After that, the community added support for the Mac, Samsung Corp. got it running on ARM processors, and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) made improvements to the compiler to make .NET run faster on their CPUs.

"We get collaboration with customers." Gossman says. "It's very helpful in recruiting. Most developers love open source, many of them prefer to work on open source." Involvement in open source projects "looks good on their resumes," Gossman says.

Gossman adds, "It's not a charity. It's not a PR effort. Open source is absolutely core to our business."

Related posts:

— Mitch Wagner Follow me on Twitter Visit my LinkedIn profile Visit my blog Follow me on Facebook Editor, Enterprise Cloud News

(22)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Page 1 / 3   >   >>
Susan Fourtané
50%
50%
Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
2/20/2018 | 4:06:35 PM
Going with the flow
This is definitely a good move. To stay in the game companies need to go with the flow, change and adapt. And Ballmer’s comparisons, well ...
mhhfive
50%
50%
mhhfive,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/20/2018 | 5:07:11 PM
Re: Going with the flow
It's unavoidable. To attract the top talent, big companies need to allow their developers to do things like open source and work on 20% projects... 
Susan Fourtané
50%
50%
Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
2/20/2018 | 5:18:39 PM
Re: Going with the flow
And obviously the current leadership has much to do with the positive change.
maryam@impact
50%
50%
[email protected],
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/21/2018 | 12:16:10 PM
Re: Going with the flow
To be fair many companies were afraid of open source because of fears of poor code and service issues. Now that it has matured the understanding of how to use it for the better is more prevalent. Microsoft resisted for years making their software available as a service and lost market share in the tablet and phone-based world.Its new system of SaaS is more flexible, more cost-effective, and more friendly to businesses and consumers that are platform agnostic.
mikeroch
50%
50%
mikeroch,
User Rank: Lightning
2/21/2018 | 12:35:59 PM
Re: Going with the pirlotv flow
Yes leadership has a very vital role to play in open source. Microsoft guys got guts and they have shown again that they are the champions.
Susan Fourtané
50%
50%
Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
2/21/2018 | 3:46:43 PM
Re: Going with the pirlotv flow
Only after the change in leadership.
Susan Fourtané
50%
50%
Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
2/21/2018 | 3:53:17 PM
Re: Going with the flow
More than fear I think it was more a Steve Ballmer’s personal attitude toward open source.
Ariella
50%
50%
Ariella,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/22/2018 | 10:19:55 PM
Re: Going with the flow
<Its new system of SaaS is more flexible, more cost-effective, and more friendly to businesses and consumers that are platform agnostic.>

@Maryam those are all impoprtant advances to appeal to more potential users.
maryam@impact
50%
50%
[email protected],
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/23/2018 | 5:05:25 PM
Re: Going with the flow
@ Ariella yes and Microsft is using the new strategy to try and regain their position in the marketplace.
Ariella
50%
50%
Ariella,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/25/2018 | 10:05:19 AM
Re: Going with the flow
@mhhf1ve Tech companies have to adapt to the current climate. You just can't sail on what you've done in the past. This is why we see companies like IBM and now Kodak trying to reimagine itself in a project that's a long way away from film.
Page 1 / 3   >   >>
More Blogs from Wagner’s Ring
The satellite network operator is looking to the Open Networking Automaton Platform (ONAP) to automate connecting its space-based network with terrestrial operators.
VMware's been shopping this summer, buying three cloud and networking startups that will bolster its telco strategy.
Service providers rank in fifth place for vertical markets served by the switch powerhouse. Number one? The hypercloud guys.
IBM reveals details of how it's using Red Hat software as the foundation for its multicloud strategy, following its $34 billion Red Hat acquisition.
AT&T recently cut a big cloud deal with IBM. Then AT&T cut a big cloud deal with Microsoft the next day. That doesn't mean we're caught in a timeloop – the deals are different, and have plenty of unanswered questions.
Featured Video
Upcoming Live Events
September 17-19, 2019, Dallas, Texas
October 1-2, 2019, New Orleans, Louisiana
October 10, 2019, New York, New York
October 22, 2019, Los Angeles, CA
November 5, 2019, London, England
November 7, 2019, London, UK
November 14, 2019, Maritim Hotel, Berlin
December 3-5, 2019, Vienna, Austria
December 3, 2019, New York, New York
March 16-18, 2020, Embassy Suites, Denver, Colorado
May 18-20, 2020, Irving Convention Center, Dallas, TX
All Upcoming Live Events