Redmond View

Will the Microsoft Open Source Odyssey Extend to Windows?

While the notion would have been ludicrous in years past, experts are hinting that an open source Windows could be a possibility down the road.

Every time Microsoft takes a new step toward embracing open source, the company raises eyebrows. The reaction ranges from high praise to cackles of suspicion. Yet Microsoft's first major step to embrace the Linux community dates back to 2007 when it partnered with Novell (now SUSE), and created its Interoperability

Council in 2010. Despite its various efforts, critics have had a hard time getting past former CEO Steve Ballmer's warning that Linux was a cancer and that it was fit for communists.

Microsoft's incremental embrace of the open source community has culminated with last year's announcement that it would contribute the famed proprietary .NET Framework including its Visual Studio tooling and last fall's pact to support Linux-based Docker containers in Windows and Microsoft Azure. Microsoft says 20 percent of server instances running in the Azure cloud are Linux-based.

So when Wired Business Editor Cade Metz, during a panel discussion he moderated at last month's ChefConf, asked Azure CTO Mark Russinovich if Microsoft would ever consider opening Windows, the response made headlines. "It's definitely possible," Russinovich responded to an audience of open source purists. "It's a new Microsoft."

Whether Microsoft goes that route, many in the open source community are still suspicious of the company, which is why Russinovich and the likes of Windows PowerShell inventor Jeffrey Snover are trying to make their case. At least for some it's working. "To me it's powerful, as an open source advocate, to watch them make that transformation," said Facebook Systems Engineer and longtime outspoken Microsoft critic Phil Dibowitz, who was on the open source panel discussion with Metz and Russinovich. "It makes me super excited."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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