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Microsoft bets on PowerShell despite past support for other languages

Windows pros want a single scripting language that works across all platforms. But despite some early open source efforts, Microsoft has refocused on PowerShell.

IT pros like PowerShell, but want a scripting language that works on more platforms than just Windows.

There is an open source movement to create a cross-platform version of PowerShell called Pash, and there are open source scripting languages that already provide cross-platform support. But without Microsoft’s backing, those languages fall short. Though Microsoft once encouraged and participated in their development, these days the company appears only interested in PowerShell.

For example, Microsoft cut commercial support for IronRuby and IronPython in October, handing those programming languages back to the open source community. Both were Microsoft’s own versions of Python and Ruby, created about six years ago to bolster support for .NET-based languages. Meanwhile, Pash is also at a standstill because of waning interest from Microsoft.

It’s no surprise that Microsoft lost interest in IronRuby and IronPython given that .NET is supported by a number of scripting languages, including PowerShell, which is both popular and proprietary.

“It appears that leadership of these open source projects is no longer a priority for Microsoft, perhaps so it can maintain focus on development and support of its PowerShell scripting language,” said Rob Sanfilippo, an analyst with Kirkland, Wash.-based Directions on Microsoft.

One universal language
IT pros love the idea of a universal language, especially one that is based on PowerShell.

“Most of us are and dealing with interoperability all the time, so if there is a common scripting platform that lets you initiate activities on other platforms, there is significant value in that,” said Gregg Rosenberg, CEO of the IT consultancy Ricis Inc. in Tinley Park, Ill.

For example, Rosenberg recently worked on a project with Chicago public schools to automate website requests. Since the schools run Linux on the back end and Windows on the front end, he had to spend more time on the project and create Windows APIs that Linux could call.

Though IT pros are enthusiastic about Pash, the project went dormant because of weak community development efforts and because Microsoft has not been communicative with project developers, said Igor Moochnick, lead developer on the Pash project and principal of IgorShare Consulting in Boston.

“Microsoft seemed to want to work with us at first, but [they] stopped responding,” Moochnick said. “They haven’t been supportive at all.” 

Microsoft seemed to want to work with us at first, but [they] stopped responding.

Igor Moochnick, lead developer, Pash project

Without cooperation from Microsoft, developers have to reverse engineer for Pash. This is particularly difficult since Microsoft changes its scripting language with every new release without communicating what the language is or giving a heads up about changes, said Rosenberg.

The reason Pash development efforts are weak is because it targets administrators in the Windows community who also want to use Unix, and that is a small community, Moochnick said.

The Pash project website states that 50% of public PowerShell classes have been defined and 40% of the framework functionality is operational, though Moochnick said about 80% of Pash is functional now. He would like to see the project come to fruition and is open to renewing development efforts.

Even though there are cross-platform languages for mixed shops, such as Perl and Python, PowerShell is preferable because it has Microsoft’s backing and, therefore, strong third-party vendor support, said Hal Rottenberg, director of

“Microsoft has really gotten behind it, so you can do things with PowerShell that you could never do with Python, such as manage your VMware environment and the connected SAN,” Rottenberg said. “You can do parts of it with Perl on the VMware side but not the SAN. The interoperability with PowerShell and third-party products adds a lot of value.”

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho or follow @BridgetBotelho on Twitter.

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