On Monday, in Red Hat’s backyard at All Things Open in Raleigh, word was that Microsoft representatives were saying an “important” announcement would be made at Tuesday morning’s keynote address by Mark Russinovich, CTO for Microsoft Azure. I was expecting something earth shattering, like maybe Redmond was going to port Office to Linux, or that Red Hat and MS were going to get together on some major project.
It was nothing like that. But it was pretty big, given Redmond’s history with open source.
Evidently, the news was that the company is looking for more than a few good men and women who know their way around open source software. I use the word “evidently,” because the announcement was made rather subtly and without fanfare near the end of the keynote. It was slipped in as just another note in a talk about how Microsoft is serious about becoming a good open source citizen.
Russinovich made it very clear, without coming right out and saying it, that Microsoft was at All Things Open in large part to find a few knowledgeable open source people to put on the payroll.
The address started out as more of the same: Microsoft explaining how much it’s on the open source bandwagon.
Russinovich did a good job of making Redmond’s case, and to these skeptical eyes of mine — at least as far as Microsoft is concerned — he came across as truthful and honest. Not surprising, as he has a reputation among people who work in enterprise open source of being one of the good guys.
He spent most of his 30 minutes at the podium offering a review of Microsoft’s approach to open source, with some background on the hows and whys that led to the turnabout from “hate” to “love” when it comes to Linux and free software. There was very little new here, but nor were there any attempts to put lipstick on a pig.
It’s no secret that a lot of what prompted Microsoft to change its open source tune had to do with the rising importance of cloud computing, which Russinovich readily admitted by pointing out that even the most dedicated MS shops use Linux and open source, which they’d need to deploy in any cloud solution.
“It’s obvious that if we don’t support Linux and open source in our cloud,” he said, “then we’ll be a Windows only cloud, and that would not be practical.”
He also ran through a long list of products the company has open sourced, most of which have also been ported to Linux — especially important for tools because it allows the use of the same tools across platforms. In addition, he talked in plain single-speak (meaning no discernible doublespeak) on the company’s collaboration efforts with major open source projects that are outside the Microsoft domain, like Docker, detailing the nature and reasons behind the collaborations.
The recruitment pitch came near the end of his talk, when he jokingly invited the audience of mostly developer types to, “Pass your resumes up.”
He talked about the career opportunities within the company for people with open source knowledge and skills, pointing to the fact that the company currently has over 300 open source job listings outside the country, with many more here in the United States. What he didn’t mention, probably because it wasn’t necessary, was that Microsoft had a booth at the conference staffed with people who’d be happy to explain in detail the opportunities available for those who want to join Redmond’s team.
Does this mean that it’s time for the open source community to quit the fight and declare a truce with what has until recently been our biggest enemy? As I said a few weeks back, not yet. Not as long as the company continues to use software patents as a threat against open source projects. However, it might be time to tone down the anti-Microsoft rhetoric a bit and give them a little breathing room. If we give them enough rope, we can see if they hang themselves, or if they use it to strengthen their ties with the open source community.