Microsoft Pulls Open-Source Unit Back Into The Fold

Microsoft announced it is dissolving its MS Open Tech open-source unit, claiming the company has met its goals and is on the right track

Microsoft has closed its MS Open Tech subsidiary to bring the staff back into the Microsoft fold.

In a blog post, Jean Paoli, president of MS Open Tech, said Microsoft was subsuming his unit back into the company because it had completed its goal of bringing open source front and center at the parent company.

“Today, MS Open Tech has reached its key goals, and open source technologies and engineering practices are rapidly becoming mainstream across Microsoft,” Paoli said. “It’s now time for MS Open Tech to rejoin Microsoft Corp., and help the company take its next steps in deepening its engagement with open source and open standards.”

MSMicrosoft launched MS Open Tech in 2012 to advance the company’s investment in openness, including interoperability, open standards and open source. At the time, Paoli said the new subsidiary represented a long-term commitment to open source at Microsoft. The unit announced its first deliverable, Redis on Windows, in April 2012. But its services as a separate entity are no longer required.”

Today, Microsoft engineers participate in nearly 2,000 open source projects on GitHub and CodePlex combined,” Paoli said in his April 17 post. “Through open source collaborations, Microsoft has brought first-class support for Linux to Azure, worked with Docker to integrate it with Azure and Windows, built Azure HDInsight on Apache Hadoop and Linux, and delivered developer tools for Android and iOS, and for Node.js and Python. And Microsoft is actively building open source communities of its own.”

Good move

Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, which is a major open-source community of tools, projects and collaborative working groups, welcomed the Microsoft news. “I think that this is a good move by Microsoft,” Milinkovich said. “It shows that open source is now embraced as mainstream there, as opposed to be something to be feared. MS Open Tech was a bit of an organizational and legal hack to ensure that their open source activities were isolated. That said, it was an effective first step for Microsoft, but one which is no longer necessary.”

microsoftPerhaps the most significant move Microsoft has made on the open-source front of late is its move to open-source its .NET Framework. Microsoft initially announced plans to open-source components of .NET at its Build 2014 conference in April 2014. At that time, the company also announced the launch of the .NET Foundation, which would oversee the process of taking .NET to the open-source community. Despite the dissolution of MS Open Tech, representatives of the organization will still be involved with the .NET Foundation. Gianugo Rabellino, senior director of open-source communities at Microsoft Open Technologies, will continue as a member of the .NET Foundation’s board of directors.

“Through the .NET Foundation, Microsoft has open sourced .NET, and dozens of .NET-based projects, and is bringing them to platforms such as Linux,” Paoli said. “We’ve built a strong open source community around TypeScript, and partnered with projects such as Angular and Ember to bring it to new audiences of developers. We’ve open sourced technologies such as WinJS and the Windows Driver Frameworks. And we’ve recently acquired Revolution Analytics, a leader in open source technology for data.”

Not unexpected

Sam Ramji, CEO of the Cloud Foundry Foundation and a former senior director of platform strategy at Microsoft, where he led the company’s worldwide open-source and Linux strategy, said this move was not unexpected.

“It’s smart—MS OT was an island and now the work of open source engineering is rejoining the mainland,” Ramji said. “I see this as the mainstreaming of open source engineering at Microsoft. Those engineers are going into product teams like Azure.”

“I have actually been expecting something like this to happen,” said IDC analyst Al Hilwa. “In light of the new Microsoft, which is becoming a much more open company as a whole, this move makes sense. Open source is now a lot more pervasive at Microsoft, and the company has switched from fighting it a few years ago to embracing it and building on it today. The team at Open Tech has been instrumental in driving this change from inside and out.”

microsoftIndeed it has. As Paoli pointed out: “During its operation, MS Open Tech has helped connect Microsoft with a number of open source communities. MS Open Tech’s projects have made it easier for Linux, Java, and other developers to use Azure, through SDKs, tools plug-ins, and integration with technologies such as Chef, Puppet, and Docker. We’ve helped bring Microsoft’s services and APIs to iOS and Android. We’ve contributed to open source projects such as Apache Cordova, Cocos2d-x, OpenJDK, and dash.js. We’ve brought Office 365 to the Moodle learning platform. And we’ve helped connect the Open Web by collaborating with the industry on standards for HTML5, HTTP/2, and WebRTC/ORTC.”

Prior to MS Open Tech, Paoli led a group known as the Microsoft Interoperability Strategy team, which worked closely with many business groups on numerous standards initiatives across Microsoft. That group formed the core of MS Open Tech. That team worked on issues such as the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) HTML5, the Internet Engineering Task Force’s (IETF) HTTP 2.0, cloud standards in the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) and the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Systems (OASIS), and in many open-source environments such as Node.js, MongoDB and Phonegap/Cordova.

MS Open Tech staff will continue their roles inside Microsoft. “As MS Open Tech rejoins Microsoft, team members will play a broader role in the open advocacy mission with teams across the company, including the creation of the Microsoft Open Technology Programs Office,” Paoli said. “The Programs Office will scale the learnings and practices in working with open source and open standards that have been developed in MS Open Tech across the whole company.”

Originally published on eWeek.