Microsoft Continues To Embrace Open Source World

Microsoft, the commercial software behemoth from Redmond, Washington, continues to dip its toes into the open source pool. Microsoft's Open Source Technology Center (OSTC) is home to the software vendor's relationships with a few open source products such as MySQL and SugarCRM. The OSTC has been hard at work lately -- especially, in the web application space.

After releasing their own open source CMS and making it easy to install open source applications on Windows Server, what else has Redmond been up to?

Forging New Partnerships

The standard web programming language on the Internet is PHP. The scripting language part of what is known as the LAMP stack which includes the Linux operating system, Apache web server, MySQL database engine and PHP as the final component of the host platform for many well known web sites and web applications.

Microsoft has been contributing to the PHP framework in a number of ways, as CNET reports. Most notably, Microsoft has been funding work that has led to enhancements in the PHP run-time engine and PHP application projects.

Shooting Themselves in the Foot?

Casual observers might see Microsoft's involvement in PHP as odd. Why would an enterprise software company support and contribute to a competing web application framework? On the surface, this activity would be counterproductive and could cannibalize sales of their Microsoft SQL Server and Windows Server products that power .NET-based web applications.

As open source developers and contributors know, there is much to be learned from casual engagements and working together. Microsoft, by embracing and contributing to open source projects, will not only learn from these open source developers but will also be able to bring these enhancements back to Microsoft campus and put them to work in Microsoft's proprietary systems.

Lack of Trust Still Exists

Despite the efforts Microsoft has made, there is still a high degree of animosity amongst those involved in open source projects towards the software company. For example, Microsoft has a no-charge version of SQL Server available, but it's rarely used in the open source world. This edition of SQL Server isn't fully open source -- perhaps, this is part of the issue.

Microsoft hopes to sway LAMP-based developers to use parts of the Windows web application platform for certain uses. LAMP developers are known to utilize particular technologies for different needs. For instance, sometimes a developer will use Perl for one application and PHP for another. Will a typical open source developer look Microsoft's way? Not until Microsoft establishes some credibility and trust within open source circles. Until this happens, most open source advocates are nervous, now knowing what Microsoft's true motives are.

We Stand to Benefit

As application developers and users of web-based CMS tools, the greater web community will see benefit from this collaboration between Microsoft and the open source world. As a result, we will see better interoperability between previously closed systems (as seen with Jadu last week) and much more innovative software as a result.

Kudos to Microsoft for opening the Open Source Technology Center. We are excited to see more announcements and product releases coming out of these newly formed partnerships.