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Opinion

Cloud is adolescent, open source until puberty please

How will Microsoft play the open source game?

Woman holding door key up against blue sky background

Despite the IT cognoscenti’s hankering to variously deride and dismiss Microsoft’s efforts into open source over the years, the company has (at times) produced some tangible advancements in the open computing arena - such as those seen during the Microsoft and Novell interoperability years, to name but one example.

Now, with news of Windows Azure set to potentially lay a place for Linux at its cloud-flavoured smorgasbord, could we be on the cusp of an open source cloud reawakening?

Industry comments and blogs point to “suggestions” that Microsoft will be offering open source technologies in its virtual machines (VMs) as part of a Windows Azure update.

Reports suggest Microsoft’s route to Linux will be via a Community Technology Preview test-build of Azure with the ability to host “durable” stable VMs.

But isn’t this just right and proper anyway? Surely the cloud model of services-based computing is too young to impose proprietary gender restrictions upon it in the first place. Cloud is young, free and adolescent and (while it needs guidance and management) it still needs time to find its place in the universe.

If Microsoft does indeed pave the way for Azure instances to be able to run both Windows and Linux then, even with a lack of additional service support from Redmond (who would have expected it anyway?), surely this is free speech in action at its highest level for the IT community isn’t it?

Or is this Microsoft playing a subtle and altogether slyer hand?

Let’s look at the facts; the OpenStack open cloud initiative has garnered widespread support and respect from a large number of big player vendors, including Microsoft. With 144 member companies at the time of writing, why wouldn’t Microsoft want to join in and be a part of this “global collaboration of developers and cloud computing technologists” as they label themselves.

Let’s look to the side at Office, OpenOffice and LibreOffice. While Microsoft has milked its productivity suite cash cow successfully for many a year now, the open source community almost got to the point of infighting over the Libre fork as it opened up – A situation made all the more complicated once Oracle decided to hand over the OpenOffice source code to the Apache Foundation in mid 2011.

Would Microsoft be so devious as to embrace open source technologies to a certain degree and then sit tight and play a tactical game of ‘He Said, She Said’ until users see their way through to truth, enlightenment and the proprietary way?

No, not at all, that’s absolutely not what we’re suggesting here. Microsoft does not strategise to pay lip service to a quantifiable degree of open source based technologies while keepings its hands firmly lashed to proprietary roots. That just doesn’t happen, OK?

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