Microsoft to Present Open-Source Blueprint for Down Economy

Microsoft said it intends to involve end-users, partners and systems integrators in running open-source applications on Windows and integrating of Windows and Linux in the data center.

Microsoft plans to use this week's Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) to outline its move into the next phase of its open source strategy around building a business model for the down economy, according to company officials.

"We are moving from the technology footing we have been building to a business footing," says Sam Ramji, senior director of platform strategy at Microsoft.

What that means is Microsoft will concentrate more on involving end-users, partners and systems integrators in growing Windows as a platform for running open source applications, pushing adoption of Linux as a guest on Windows-based virtualization and focusing on the integration of Windows and Linux infrastructure in the data center.

"Microsoft is seeing the heterogeneity in the enterprise as a core reality and we have built technology and partnerships to support it," said Ramji. "The bulk of the opportunity is open source applications on Windows, but these things are all coming together. We are really bullish on being a platform for some of this innovation as customers want more functionality out of their hardware and software. We are becoming a conduit for other technologies."

Microsoft has shipped open source elements with its high-performance computing platform, System Center management software and Visual Studio development tools.

"You are starting to see a shift in what Microsoft releases," said Ramji.

But despite the good will and open source work, Microsoft in part is reacting to the downturn in the economy and trying to prevent corporate users and start-ups budgeting on a shoestring from defaulting to open source alternatives.

That concern was seen in last week's announcement of BizSpark, a program that provides startups with access to free software for hosting services including the Windows OS, SQL Server and Visual Studio development tools.

In addition, Microsoft is again sowing the seeds of distrust in its relationship with some aspects of open source, including the Linux OS.

The OSBC appearance comes amid a Microsoft patent infringement suit against TomTom that alleges the company used Microsoft file technology in the Linux kernel at the heart of its devices. TomTom has filed a countersuit.

Ramji would only say that the timing of OSBC and the TomTom suit is a coincidence and that work by the independent teams at Microsoft often overlaps.

In the shadow of that legal wrangling, the details of Microsoft's next phase within its open source movement will be presented Wednesday at OSBC (Disclosure: The conference is hosted by Network World sister publication InfoWorld) during a keynote address by Robert Youngjohns, president for Microsoft North America. Youngjohns oversees Microsoft's 8,500-person sales force in North America.

Youngjohns is but one name on a long list of keynote speakers that includes Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz, Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst and Jim Zemlin, the CEO of the Linux Foundation.

Youngjohns' keynote is entitled "A World of Choice: Partnering for Success" and Microsoft has released a whitepaper in conjunction with the keynote.

The whitepaper offers more of a retrospective on where Microsoft has been with its open source efforts. But the review is a lead-in as Microsoft is now internally evaluating its on-going strategy.

Ramji says recent market performance data on servers and desktops has shown Microsoft where opportunity lurks.

An IDC survey in February showed a drop in server shipments of around 12% in the last three months of 2009. IDC concluded the slide would continue and IT would begin to seriously focus on virtualization and workload consolidation to reduce server operating costs.

It is in that atmosphere that Microsoft is trying to define Windows as a platform to run open source applications.

Ramji says the company has been through phases around open source including the initial denial of its threat, the initial use of the software and then contribution to the community.

Last year, Ramji used the Open Source Conference in Portland to announce Microsoft's first code submission ever to the PHP community and a $100,000 investment to become one of only three Platinum sponsors of the Apache Foundation.

Last week at its Mix09 conference, Microsoft announced that it would support PHP on Azure, its forthcoming OS for the cloud and it unveiled an open-source framework for developing secure Web applications called the Web Sandbox.

Now Ramji said Microsoft is ready to start using its extensive partner and system integrator community to help users realize where its technology and cost cutting measures intersect with open source.

Ramji pointed to efforts like Microsoft's participation in the working group developing a standard application layer for message oriented middleware called the Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP).

"We are trying to save users money by finding a way to provide open source solutions that run along side Microsoft technologies," he said.

Ramji said users such as Fuji Film are adopting and developing more and more open source software but running it on a Windows 2008 infrastructure.

"We're working to help people realize interoperability as a lever for business growth," he said.

OSBC runs Tuesday and Wednesday in San Francisco.

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This story, "Microsoft to Present Open-Source Blueprint for Down Economy" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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