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Microsoft plans more open source outreach

Microsoft will continue the warming trend toward open source software in 2009. Pragmatism trumps ideology, according to one executive.

In 2009, Microsoft will continue its gradual acceptance of open source software and at the same time work to dispel old prejudices against nonproprietary software within the company.

Part of that acceptance will mean more work with open source project groups, according to Robert Duffner, the director of platform strategy at Microsoft. In October, Microsoft joined the Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP) working group, an open source project that originated at JPMorgan Chase & Co. as a means of developing a standard for high-speed messaging.

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In addition, Microsoft will pick up its activity in the Apache Qpid project, which it also joined this fall. Qpid is a messaging implementation built on AMQP. Microsoft became a sponsor of the Apache Software Foundation in July.

Microsoft has famously shifted its stance on open source during the past several years. The company has moved from shunning open source technology outright to becoming a contributor, creating intellectual property through the acquisition of Powerset last June, for example. Powerset, a San Francisco-based search company, uses a capability from the Apache Software Foundation that allows parallel searching algorithms. In that acquisition, Microsoft gained two contributors to the Apache Software Foundation.

Having employees that created open source intellectual property was a big hurdle for Microsoft to overcome, Duffner said.

Exactly what Microsoft does with the open source code through its own products is up to individual product groups. Duffner said another hub of activity will be getting open-source applications to run on platforms other than open-source-based Linux or MySQL. The company also wants to ensure that its Windows Server interoperates with Linux -- not just with the Novell SUSE platform but others, such as Red Hat Inc., as well.

Microsoft and Novell forged a deal in November 2006 to offer joint support for the Windows and SUSE Linux operating system with cross maintenance and support from both vendors.

Microsoft and Red Hat now have a close connection given they are both on the AMQP standards committee. "You cannot get a support contract today [from Microsoft for Red Hat Enterprise Linux], but there isn't anything you technically cannot do," Duffner said. "We are actively looking at being able to let customers be supported."

Duffner said he expects to see more mixed source environments. Vendors will use both open source and proprietary code to develop products. He also expects to see an increasing number of collaborations between vendors that make open source software and those that are focused on proprietary code.

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